Late Cowboys sucker punch ruins Warriors' season
IT was the try that ended the Warriors' season.
With the game in the balance, it was all-or-nothing play.
Mason Lino booted the ball to the heavens and David Fusitua flew high for what looked likely to be the match leveller to send the game to golden point.
But when his pass went behind a waiting Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Javid Bowen swooped and raced 90 metres to seal a 24-12 victory at 1300SMILES Stadium.
It was a gutsy performance from two sides that were missing key men.
Now you can draw a thick red line through the Warriors. Their season is done.
In what was billed as a battle of the young halves with Te Maire Martin, in for Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston (shoulder), and Mason Lino, in for Warriors livewire Shaun Johnson (knee), it was the old heads that impressed most.
Jake Granville was a scheming jack-in-the-box and Michael Morgan was the general of the side.
Martin had moments, as did the Warriors young gun Lino.
"Morgo struggled a bit at the start when Jono went down with injury but he's stepped up," Cowboys forward Jason Taumalolo said post-match.
"He and Te Maire are real assets to our team."
In fact, Lino threatened the line early but it was a run at the line by Tuivasa-Sheck that put Bunty Afoa through a gap to produce first points.
It took 10 minutes but the Cowboys hit back.
Granville, Morgan and Lachlan Coote linked to put Justin O'Neill over for his first try of the season and Ethan Lowe added the extras to level things up.
At the half hour mark it was the rookie half threatening to break the deadlock when he made a charge for the line.
Kane Linnett and Gavin Cooper produced a try saving tackle on Lino who was within an inch of scoring and two plays later it was Coote, Cooper and Te Maire Martin who held up Ligi Sao.
The Cowboys' defence was rewarded with points when Granville popped out of dummy half, grubbing through the legs of Lino to find and unmarked Bowen.
But with seconds left before the halftime buzzer, Mannering brushed past a lazy attempt from Ethan Lowe and Morgan to score and Issac Luke kicked the extras to level the scores 12-12.
Lino, the co-captain of the Warriors' 2014 NYC premiership winning team, was scheming.
With scores locked in the second half, the No.7 produced a kick which ricocheted off the head of John Asiata and landed in front of Foran but Cooper produced his third try saver by stripping Foran of the ball.
Minutes later, keeping in the seesawing nature of the match, Lows kicked a penalty goal to reclaim the lead.
With pressure mounting, the usual suspects for the home side linked with Lowe who shuffled the ball to Kyle Feldt.
The winger bamboozled the defence with his footwork before offloading back to the second rower to finish off the team try in the corner.
The Cowboys lost Shaun Fensom to a rib injury in the second half, while Stephen Kearney made the bizarre move to take Luke off with 10 minutes remaining and his team trailing by six points.
With the game in the balance and six minutes left on the clock, Foran rolled the dice with a 40-20 attempt which went out on the full.
The game appeared over when Coote had a crack at field goal moments later but it bounced off the post to keep the Warriors' season alive.
While they managed to get in attacking opportunity to level the game, they couldn't finish.
The Cowboys extended their buffer inside the top eight and pushing for a top four spot but the task is now too great for the Warriors.