Canterbury have overcome the odds to steal victory over North Queensland, beating the Cowboys 6-4 in a scrappy, error-strewn and down-to-the-wire NRL game in Townsville.
Trent Barrett’s side flipped the script on a lacklustre opening 40 minutes to score the only try of the second half through Jayden Okunbor, who was the beneficiary of Jeremy Marshall-King’s battered on pass by Braidon Burns to score in the corner in the 51st minute.
The Cowboys thought they’d snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with three minutes left when Coen Hess got to a high ball that found Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who jinked to slide under the posts in torrential rain.
But the bunker official spotted the Cowboys fullback ahead of kicker Chad Townsend, with the Bulldogs holding on in the dying stages for a win to kick-start their 2022 campaign.
After a disappointing three-win season last year, Barrett said his side’s victory was extra special after losing players to concussion protocols throughout the contest.
“It’s always a tough trip to come to Townsville, but to go through what we had – we had five HIAs and ran out of reserves, had blokes playing out of position and used our 18th man,” he said.
“To be able to hang on and get a win is great for us, great for the players and I’m extremely proud of them.”
Playing in his first NRL game for the Bulldogs, star recruit Josh Addo-Carr said the victory was special not only for himself but for their dedicated fans.
“Ever since I’ve come to the club they’ve (the fans) gone above and beyond for myself and my family and all the boys in the team,” he told AAP.
“It was a crazy win, was one of the toughest games I’ve played in terms of conditions … and a special win for ourselves, our members and fans.”
In a battle between the bottom-two placed teams of the 2021 season, the Cowboys took a four-point lead into the main break following Tom Gilbert’s maiden NRL try in the 16th minute.
Tom Dearden exploited a shortside three-on-two inside his own half after Valentine Holmes’ quick play-the-ball, dummying through before finding Murray Taulagi who lobbed to Gilbert to dive over.
That play ended up being North Queensland’s only highlight in the contest, failing to crack the Bulldogs as fans braved the torrential rain.
But Dearden, GIlbert and young-gun Jeremiah Nanai drew praise from coach Todd Payten for their efforts, in another game the coach said they cost themselves.
“The upside he (Nanai) has is enormous,” Payten said after the loss.
“That was his first run for the season too, so to get through 80 minutes the way he did is really encouraging.
“Tommy Gilbert was strong for us, he played between the edge and middle and his effort and work ethic is is positive.
“We showed periods where we hung in there but by no way do I feel like we were beaten, it was a game that we cost ourselves.”