A 40-metre field goal by Valentine Holmes has sealed a memorable 29-28 win for North Queensland over the Warriors in Townsville.
In Friday night’s second match as part of the NRL’s Indigenous Round, the West Tigers accounted for St George Illawarra 34-18 at the Western Sydney Stadium.
In Townsville, the Cowboys seemed all but out of the contest when they trailed 28-22 with 10 minutes to play.
But when Holmes found Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in the 75th minute on halfway, the centre stepped inside to streak away and score with the fullback adding the conversion to level the score at 28-28.
Coen Hess made a meal of his play the ball from the restart to gift the Warriors — who trailed 22-6 at half-time — a perfect opportunity to ice the match but Chanel Harris-Tavita missed a drop goal from right in front.
The hosts edged to within 30 metres of the Warriors line before Holmes slotted a field goal to secure the Cowboys’ fifth straight win at home.
After trailing by 16 at half-time, the Warriors were right back in the contest when Euan Aitken scored in the 43rd minute.
A blistering 80-metre run by teenage sensation Reece Walsh then followed, with the 18-year-old doing just enough to hold off a chasing Heilum Luki.
Marcelo Montoya and Ben Murdoch-Masila then bagged tries with the visitors looking on track to run away with a Cowboys-patented comeback victory.
But Holmes stepped up in the final 10 to lift his side and secure a memorable win for a side heading into the bye week with 6-6 win-loss record.
Early on, tries to Kyle Feldt and Murray Taulagi set the tone for the Cowboys after the Warriors hit the ground running through Aitken in the second minute.
The Warriors lost Jazz Tevaga to the bin in the 31st minute for a late shot on Luki and the home side capitalised.
On 36 minutes, Jake Clifford grubbered and regathered ahead of some tired Warriors defence and then in the next set Reece Robson freed an arm to offload to Scott Drinkwater, who pinned the ears back and streaked away from 50 metres out to score.
The Cowboys enjoyed 60 per cent possession and an 86 per cent completion rate in the first half, helping them to a comfortable lead going into the sheds.
Wests Tigers too strong for Dragons
The under-manned Dragons never looked a chance against the Wests Tigers as they slumped to their third straight loss, and sixth from their past seven matches.
Should Jack de Belin prove his fitness in the NSW Cup, it will be almost impossible to resist elevating the former State of Origin forward into the NRL side next week.
The Dragons are expected to be without Zac Lomax (thumb) and Matt Dufty (shoulder) again in round 13, while Josh McGuire and Tyrell Fuimaono are suspended until round 16.
Depending on how he plays in his rugby league return, de Belin could slip straight back into the NRL pack to face Brisbane on Thursday night.
The 30-year-old is expected to play around 40 minutes against Western Suburbs at Lidcombe Oval in two 20-minute stints.
In an anomaly for Michael Maguire’s team, all four of the Tigers’ wins this season have come against either Newcastle or the Dragons.
Earlier this month the Tigers scored a 16-8 victory but on Friday night it was the exact opposite when they started fast out of the blocks and only eased up when the match was gone.
The Dragons were thoroughly beaten up by the Tigers pack who had Luciano Leilua punching his way through the line with Adam Doueihi and Luke Brooks ruthless in attack.
The duo led a backline that thrived in the action, with James Roberts scoring a double to go with tries for Daine Laurie, David Nofoaluma and Tommy Talau.
Laurie also finished with 152 running metres and two try-assists to put the Dragons to the sword.
A late rally got the visitors on the board after trailing 18-0 at half-time, but second-half tries to Brayden Wiliame, Ben Hunt and Talatau Amone could not pull the match back.
It is a far cry from where the Dragons started the season after winning four straight between rounds two and five, beating just last-place Canterbury in the seven weeks since.