Knights hang on to beat Cowboys - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Knights hang on to beat Cowboys

By David Beniuk 17/04/2010 09:00:23 PM Comments (0)

North Queensland coach Neil Henry has blasted stars on "good contracts" at the NRL club, promising Willie Mason will start next week after the Cowboys produced one of the worst halves of football in recent memory in a 36-18 loss to Newcastle.

Minus stars Johnathan Thurston, Aaron Payne and Luke O'Donnell the Cowboys resembled a rabble in the first half at EnergyAustralia Stadium as the Knights piled on six tries to lead 30-6 at the break.

They fought back to outscore the home side in the second half but Henry appeared to single out off-contract former Test forward Carl Webb and former South Sydney first-grader Manase Manuokafoa in a stinging rebuke of his players' attitudes.

"There has to be changes on that performance," Henry said.

"I can't have so-called experienced players that are on good contracts turning up like that.

"If I could dock some pay there I would do.

"Putting Carl Webb and Manase Manuokafoa in there, they're experienced players, they can still make their tackles."

But Henry praised Mason, who resembled his best at times during the second half, and stand-in skipper Matthew Scott.

"It's a pity that we haven't got a few more men in the team that are able to produce that," he said.

"On tonight's performance you've got to say (Mason's) got to start next week."

Henry refused to blame the absence of Test ace Thurston, who is sidelined until round nine with a shoulder injury, for the loss.

"JT certainly offers a big dimension to our game but that wasn't the problem tonight," he said.

"He's not there to tackle for us.

"There's no other word for it, it's embarrassing, it's probably the most disappointing defensive effort in a first half at the start of a game that I've been associated with at the club."

Newcastle still needed to survive yet another second half fade-out to take advantage of Thurston's absence as the Cowboys fought back to 30-18 by the 61st minute to have the crowd of 14,205 shifting nervously in their seats.

It took Knights winger Cooper Vuna's third try in the 77th minute to put the final nail in the Cowboys' coffin

On a positive note for the Knights, captain Kurt Gidley successfully returned for his first NRL game of 2010 after a serious hamstring injury.

"The first priority was to get through the 80 minutes which I did, I pulled up sweet," he said.

"I made a couple of mistakes, I'd like to get them out quick smart.

"Overall I'm happy with getting through the game, getting a win and getting back on the park, that's the best thing."

It was 16-0 after 12 minutes after Cameron Ciraldo, Keith Lulia and Cory Paterson had crossed and, when hooker Isaac De Gois scored a soft try from dummy-half in the 20th, a cricket score looked likely.

North Queensland pulled one back when fullback Shannon Gallant pounced on a Graham grubber in the 24th minute before Vuna scored twice in five minutes.

Tries after the break to John Williams and Ashley Graham gave the Cowboys hope of a miracle comeback.

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