Jason Taumalolo of the Cowboys is tackled during the round 13 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Manly Sea Eagles at 1300SMILES Stadium on June 08, 2019 in Townsville, Australia.
Jason Taumalolo of the Cowboys is tackled during the round 13 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Manly Sea Eagles at 1300SMILES Stadium on June 08, 2019 in Townsville, Australia.

Depleted Cowboys struggle against willing Eagles

NORTH Queensland's injury woes have worsened with both Mitch Dunn and Jordan McLean leaving the field injured late in the second half of their 22-20 loss to the Sea Eagles.

The Cowboys played the final 10 minutes of the game with only 12 players on the field after the home side exhausted its interchanges before McLean had to leave with a hamstring complaint.

Dunn had laid motionless in the middle of 1300SMILES Stadium after colliding with teammate Jake Clifford as the pair attempted to catch a bomb from John Asiata, before he was taken from the field on the medicab with his arm in a sling.

While the extent of the injuries remain unknown, the pair become players 10 and 11 in the Cowboys first grade injury ward.

Tongan destroyer Jason Taumalolo led from the front for the home side punching out 285 metres with the ball in hand in what was a dominant performance in the middle third.

It was a strong effort from the Cowboys engine room with Jordan McLean (120m), Josh McGuire (120m) and Coen Hess (107m) all passing 100 running metres while interchange forward Francis Molo made 92m from his 10 carries.

But it was polish lacking from their execution that let the Cowboys down in the second half as they made nine errors after the break and gave up 10 unanswered points.

Jake Clifford would open the scoring in the 14th minute with a penalty goal after an end-to-end start to the first half. Clifford piloted the ball over from 10 metres wide of the uprights following a lazy lifting tackle from Sea Eagles second rower Curtis Sironen.

Manly enjoyed their first proper ball in the Cowboys half after an error from Clifford and at the end of the set Queensland halfback Daly Cherry-Evans would find the in-goal to earn a repeat set.

Despite a few heroic last ditch tackles from the Cowboys, the Sea Eagles would swoop to score the first try of the match through a hard-running Sironen.

Returning fullback Tom Trbojevic threw the final pass which hit Sironen on the chest as he ran back on the angle to get Clifford one-on-one on the line.

Manly would double-down on their advantage only minutes later and it would be their other second rower, Joel Thompson, who found himself on the end of a crafty short ball from five-eighth Cade Cust.

After a scrappy run of play with errors from both sides, the Cowboys would begin to mount pressure of their own with an Asiata grubber earning a repeat set for the home side. The drop out would go sailing out on the full earning the Cowboys a penalty right in front.

North Queensland did not need any extra incentive from their opposition with winger Kyle Feldt adding to his already illustrious highlights reel with a feat of aerial acrobatics in the corner.

Clifford would convert the try from the sideline to bring the Cowboys back within four points with five minutes before the break.

The Cowboys would be back over the try line inside two minutes after Michael Morgan summed up the play finding winger Feldt with a cross field kick who tapped the ball back inside to centre Tom Opacic who touched down for his fourth try in five games.

The Cowboys would storm ahead with seconds remaining before the break after an error in the back field gifted the home side possession on the Sea Eagles line. Interchange forward Francis Molo, would capitalise on the field position with a barnstorming carry between tired defenders on the line.

Kyle Feldt of the Cowboys scores a try during the Round 13 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville, Saturday, June 8, 2019. (AAP Image/Michael Chambers)
Kyle Feldt of the Cowboys scores a try during the Round 13 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at 1300SMILES Stadium in Townsville, Saturday, June 8, 2019. (AAP Image/Michael Chambers)

It was the Cowboys third try in six minutes as the home side turned the match on its head.

Clifford maintained his unblemished record with the boot to give the Cowboys an eight-point lead as the sides headed to the halftime break.

The action would return from the sheds as quick as it went in but it would be Manly who enjoyed the better of the field position in the early stages of the second half.

Winger Jorge Taufua would reduce the deficit after only seven minutes following a scintillating cut-out pass from

Manly would be reduced to 12 men on the field midway through the second half after Jack Gosiewski was sent to the sin bin after he committed a professional foul, holding Scott Bolton off the ball as the interchange forward went chasing through for a potential try.

The Cowboys would apply the blowtorch to their undermanned rivals with back-to-back sets but it would come undone after impressive defence from the Sea Eagles forced the ball free from the grasp of Michael Morgan.

Cowboys debutant Reuben Cotter was denied a fairytale start to life in the NRL after he was disallowed a try in the 55th minute with the video referee calling the play back for an obstruction in the lead up play.

Despite being a man down with Gosiewski in the sin bin, Manly would be the next to score and retake the lead after Morgan spilt a Cherry-Evans grubber kick into the path of Cust who slid in under the posts.

While the Cowboys aimed to show their resiliency and toughness that has seen the side win the past three straight games, being a man down, they could not overcome a willing Sea Eagles outfit.