Cowboys win third straight, upset Canberra

·2-min read

North Queensland are becoming a team transformed under new coach Todd Payten, claiming a third straight NRL win by rallying from 18 points down to topple Canberra 26-24 in Townsville.

Led by an outstanding performance from fullback Valentine Holmes, who was also perfect with the boot (5/5), and some heads-up decisions by playmaker Scott Drinkwater, the Cowboys turned around a 24-6 deficit.

The loss heaps more pressure on Ricky Stuart's highly-regarded Raiders, who suffered a third straight loss.

Payten said the win showed his players can compete with the best teams if they do the basics right.

"We just played the right way," he said.

"It's a pretty simple game when you hold the ball and put pressure on the opposition, rather than yourselves.

"The first half was just more of the same of the first six or seven weeks of the competition.

"I'll take them (wins) anyway they come, but tonight was a far better performance because we played the game the right way."

The Cowboys' achievement after starting the season with four losses is the more meritorious as they are still without injured marquee man Jason Taumalolo and Drinkwater is stepping up in the halves following the injury-forced retirement of Michael Morgan.

Regaining some of his best form, Holmes ran for a team-high 184 metres while Drinkwater bagged two try assists, with his kicking game keeping the Raiders on the backfoot throughout the second half.

But it was the Cowboys second half defensive effort that had the fans in raptures, keeping the Raiders scoreless after they had run in four first-half tries.

After trailing 24-12 at halftime the Cowboys came out of the blocks with a point to prove and they scored first after a break by Holmes forced another attacking set, with Reece Robson able to jink from the ruck to extend and score in the 43rd minute.

The Cowboys continued to ride their momentum as fatigue crept into Stuart's side, and their grit was rewarded when Drinkwater kicked through the line from 10 metres out with Justin O'Neill able to gather for the try.

Holmes added the extras leaving the score 24-all with 20 minutes to go.

The Raiders had their chances to pull ahead in the final stages but some gutsy defence from Connelly Lemuelu kept Jarrod Croker out, before North Queensland ventured down the field and earned a penalty.

Holmes stayed perfect off the boot with his 15th successive successful kick at goal putting his side ahead 26-24 with 10 minutes to play.

The home side was then able to grind out the dying stages of the match to earn a famous victory.

First-half tries to Emre Guler, George Williams and Jordan Rapana (2) had the Raiders sitting comfortable approaching halftime, but Ben Condon's try just before the hooter proved the perfect platform for the Cowboys to launch their famous comeback from.