Cowboys overcome injury to down Sharks - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Cowboys overcome injury to down Sharks

By Ben Galvin 04/07/2009 10:37:10 PM Comments (0)

North Queensland have overcome the loss of three injured stars - including NSW State of Origin forward Luke O'Donnell - to post a gutsy 24-4 NRL victory over Cronulla and keep their top four hopes alive.

The Cowboys were meant to be celebrating Aaron Payne's 150th appearance and Johnathan Thurston's and Luke O'Donnell's 100th games for the club, however, the party didn't go to script.

In a horror opening 20 minutes for the Cowboys, Payne was forced from the field in the 12th minute with a rotator cuff injury and O'Donnell went down shortly after with a grade 1-2 medial ligament tear to his right knee.

O'Donnell's horror run with leg injuries continues - the Blues enforcer missed the majority of the 2007 season when he ripped his hamstring from the bone - and he will now be in serious doubt for Origin III in Brisbane.

After a rare 0-0 halftime scoreline, it took until the 43rd minute for North Queensland winger John Williams to finally post the game's first points, latching onto a bullet Thurston pass to touch down brilliantly in the corner.

The Cowboys had to reshuffle their line-up, with regular prop Steve Rapira filling in on the left wing at stages during the second half, when Williams became their third player forced from the field, with a badly corked thigh.

The 17,283-strong crowd rejoiced when a brilliant double in the space of four minutes to Matt Bowen extended the lead out to 18 points to seal a brave win.

Cronulla finally crossed in the 70th minute through Matt Wright but Ty Williams went over again to ice the cake for North Queensland, who head into the bye full of confidence.

The Sharks enjoyed the majority of the first half possession and momentum but were unable to crack the Cowboys' defensive line.

Their best chance was disallowed by video referee Phil Cooley, who ruled Blake Ferguson had gone into touch in the 28th minute.

Sharks coach Ricky Stuart believed his side was in the hunt until Thurston took control.

"Probably the first 40 minutes was the best we have defended, that was outstanding the way we defended on them, we nullified Johnathan (Thurston)," he said.

"At halftime we were still pretty confident we could go on with it, they were in pretty bad shape with a couple of injuries.

"JT ran the show for 15 minutes and broke us.

"He is a world class player and you throw JT in our side and we win by 40."

North Queensland mentor Neil Henry praised his side for conjuring the win with only one fit sub on the bench.

"I think that is one of the best performances I have seen in my time at the club, that is going back to the four years I was here before," he said. "It was pretty special.

"I thought it was a very courageous performance.

"Steve Rapira on the left wing, I was shuffling the deck chairs there for a bit.

"But the boys responded the best way possible and that was getting the win."

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