North Queensland has snapped a nine-match losing streak after Valentine Holmes landed a field goal in golden-point extra time to see off St George Illawarra 23-22 in Townsville.
- Parramatta sits in third place on the ladder, two points clear of the Sydney Roosters
- The Eels appeared they would cruise to victory when they led 16-0, only for the Warriors to fight back
- The loss ends the Warriors’ hopes of earning a berth in the finals
The Cowboys’ victory came after Parramatta all but assured itself a top-four finish by crushing the Warriors’ hopes of a finals berth with a 24-18 win in Gosford.
The Dragons’ finals chances were also quashed, with Holmes showing cool nerves to slot the decisive field goal four minutes into extra time.
Both sides had traded field goal attempts before Holmes had one charged down, only for the former Shark to ice the win after the Cowboys were gifted a repeat set.
The win was the Cowboys’ first since late June.
Without key playmaker and captain Michael Morgan and destructive forward Jason Taumalolo because of injury, the Cowboys had to rely on enthusiasm more than class and appeared up for the contest early.
A simple try to prop Francis Molo, who barged over one-off the ruck, helped the hosts to a 6-0 lead after seven minutes.
But then it was largely the Dragons for the rest of the first half.
Euan Aitken strolled over untouched before a spectacular four-pointer to winger Mikaele Ravalawa in the corner in the 30th minute.
The sides exchanged tries early in the second half before five-eighth Scott Drinkwater took charge for the Cowboys.
Drinkwater worked his magic to set up tries for Holmes and Kyle Feldt to give the Cowboys a 22-20 edge.
Zac Lomax levelled the scores with a 77th-minute penalty goal but he and Corey Norman failed with field-goal attempts before the Cowboys capitalised.
Eels eye of top-four finish
With three matches left before the finals, the Eels are third on the ladder behind Penrith and the Melbourne Storm, but earning the win over the Warriors was far from easy at Central Coast Stadium.
In a brutally physical encounter, the Eels managed to stave off a passionate fightback from the Warriors, who were playing to keep their finals hopes alive.
The Eels scored three tries in the first half to lead 16-0 after 25 minutes but leaked two in two minutes — both scored by Warriors halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita — to put themselves under immense pressure for the final 40 minutes.
The sides traded tries in the second half to keep the scoreline close, but the Eels turned up the intensity as the Warriors kept coming until the final minute.
The Eels had scored first in the opening half through Maika Sivo, before Warriors lock Jazz Tevaga was controversially sent to the sin-bin in the first half for striking out at firebrand Nathan Brown in a tackle.
Tevaga was battling to stand up and, with a fist full of Brown’s jersey, contacted his face causing Brown to retaliate with a shove.
The Warriors conceded two tries while Tevaga cooled his heels, including Blake Ferguson’s first for the season.
The New South Wales State of Origin winger broke the longest try-scoring drought of his NRL career with his four-pointer in the 25th minute after going 16 matches without one.
Jai Field and Waqa Blake also crossed for the Eels, while Warriors winger Hayze Perham finished off a beautiful try in the second half.
The Eels are two points clear of the fourth-placed Sydney Roosters. They next face the Panthers in an enticing match-up on Friday night.