The Cowboys defeated the Raiders 20-16 at 1300SMILES Stadium in dramatic circumstances on Saturday night. The game went to golden point after both Johnathan Thurston and Aidan Sezer missed conversions, but was won by a Thurston field-goal attempt that bounced off the bottom of the cross-bar, to be dived on by Gavin Cooper.
The Raiders defended brilliantly throughout the game with only 38 per cent possession, but were hamstrung by poor discipline and ball control, while the Cowboys failed to execute successfully several times.
Canberra's Zac Santo opened the scoring after finding space on the left side of the field, beating Kyle Feldt in a foot race to the line to post first points for the Raiders.
It took the Cowboys 17 minutes and several repeat sets to strike back, and it was Johnathan Thurston's work that set Lachlan Coote up to dive over and level the scores. With both kickers shooting at 100 per cent the teams went into half-time locked up at 6-all.
Both teams had early opportunities in the second half, as the Cowboys pressured the Raiders line, before the Green Machine turned things around with an intercept that was run down by Thurston.
The Cowboys looked to take the advantage after Raiders prop Clay Priest was sin-binned for a high tackle, but the home side was unable to capitalise.
In the end it was the Raiders who struck first in the second half, with Joey Leilua scoring a contentious try after appearing to have thrown a punch at Gavin Cooper several minutes earlier that had the North Queensland crowd calling for another sin-bin. Sezer missed the kick, keeping the visitors' lead at four.
The Cowboys set themselves up for points with 15 minutes to go, after Michael Morgan placed a pin-point accurate kick into the in-goal to earn the home team a repeat set. They capitalised through a Thurston cut-out pass to Hess, who reached out to place the ball down on the line.
The Cowboys compounded their success when Javid Bowen took a mid-field intercept, before fending off Raiders fullback Santo and running 40 metres to score. Thurtson's kick sailed to the left of the posts, leaving the Cowboys four points ahead.
It would come to haunt the Cowboys as Leilua scored his second try, and a successful conversion levelled the scores at 16-all with two minutes to go. Thurston took a last-ditch attempt at a field-goal, but was charged down, sending the game into golden point.
In an ending that had to be seen to believed, Thurston took another attempt at field goal from second receiver, with the ball bouncing off the bottom of the cross-bar and dived on by Cooper to end the game.
Cowboys 20 (Lachaln Coote, Coen Hess, Javid Bowen, Gavin Cooper tries; Johnathan Thurston 2 goals) def. Raiders 16 (Joey Leilua 2, Sia Soliola; Aiden Sezer 2 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Half-time: 6-6. Crowd: 17,548.