North Queensland has held off a resilient second-half comeback by an undermanned Canterbury outfit to win 30-18 in Townsville.
In Sunday’s earlier match, the Warriors halted St George Illawarra’s four-match winning streak with a 20-14 triumph at Kogarah.
Tries after the half-time break in Townsville to Reece Robson, Ben Condon, Jake Granville and Mitchell Dunn were enough for the Cowboys to hold on to their lead as the Bulldogs surged in the dying stages of the contest.
The Bulldogs’ Will Hopoate had a try disallowed with the Cowboys leading 24-18 with just three minutes remaining, before Dunn’s solo effort in the 78th minute iced the game.
But the major talking point was Jack Hetherington being sent off in the 55th minute.
Hetherington became the first player to be sent off in 2021 after his high tackle on Valentine Holmes gave referee Ashley Klein no choice but to march him from the field.
The Cowboys quickly made the most of the extra man, scoring under the posts through Granville, but the Bulldogs were not done with yet.
Kyle Flanagan and Tuipulotu Katoa both crossed in under 10 minutes, bringing the differential to just six points, but the Cowboys held out and won their second straight match to move to a 2-4 win-loss record for the season.
Francis Molo was huge for the hosts off the bench, running for 163 metres, while Granville’s second-half injection exploited holes in a tiring Canterbury outfit.
Holmes finished perfect off the boot, kicking five from five, while leading his team with 196 running metres.
The Cowboys opened the scoring on an overcast and humid afternoon when Kyle Feldt soared above Katoa from a Ben Hampton bomb.
The Bulldogs quickly hit back through Renouf Atoni, who was the beneficiary of some swift offloads inside the Cowboys’ 10-metre line to run over Holmes.
After a stale first half totalling 15 errors between the sides, it was the Cowboys who came out with more control and desire in the second half to notch consecutive wins for the first time since round three last year.
Warriors stun in-form Dragons
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck won the battle of the fullbacks as he helped the Warriors end St George Illawarra’s early-season march with a 20-14 victory at Kogarah.
Bound for rugby union at the end of the season, Tuivasa-Sheck sent another reminder of what the Warriors will miss in his 100th match for the club.
Up against the in-form Matt Dufty, Tuivasa-Sheck was at his silky best as he stepped his way through for the match winner.
He also finished with 236 metres and seven tackle busts for his troubles, on a day where both sides scored three tries but the fullback was the difference.
Down 14-12 with 13 minutes to play, the Warriors number one took it upon himself to step through Jack Bird and Corey Norman to give the Warriors the lead.
Dufty, in comparison, had a roller-coaster afternoon.
He fumbled a Kodi Nikorima kick in goal to let the Warriors in for a first-half try to Paul Turner, allowing the Auckland-based side to take a 12-8 lead to the half-time break.
But the Dragons fullback produced a sensational effort of his own to get his side back into the game, chasing down an Adam Clune grubber that looked sure to go dead.
His effort to get the ball down just before the dead-ball line gave the Dragons a 14-12 lead with 20 minutes to play, and put them in sight of their fifth straight win.
But the 25-year-old made a crucial error to gift the Warriors good ball, moments before Tuivasa-Sheck scored the match winner.
Dufty also dropped another bomb late, and when Brayden Wiliame picked it up the Warriors were given an offside penalty and able to kick six points clear.
The Dragons also clearly lacked the guidance of Ben Hunt in attack, who is due back as soon as next week from a fractured leg.