COW­BOYS ON THE RACK

In­juries now a ma­jor cri­sis

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - JON TUXWORTH jonathon.tuxworth@news.com.au

THE Cow­boys’ in­jury con­cerns have just of­fi­cially be­come a full- blown cri­sis.

The loss of co- cap­tains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott for the year was hard enough to take, but ex­pe­ri­enced stars Gavin Cooper ( calf) and An­to­nio Win­ter­stein ( ham­string) failed to last the first half of last night’s 26- 8 home loss to Mel­bourne.

Stand- in cap­tain Cooper limped off the field in the first minute while the ham­string is­sues which have ham­pered winger Win­ter­stein’s cam­paign again got the best of him shortly af­ter against the ti­tle favourites.

Just be­fore the half hour Mark Bolton also went off clutch­ing an el­bow in­jury but re­turned in the se­cond half.

The Cow­boys could ill- af­ford to lose him given they are al­ready with­out fel­low props Scott, Patrick Kaufusi and Ben Spina for the year.

With so many stal­warts out the Cow­boys’ ex­pe­ri­ence has taken a mas­sive hit and they will be forced to re­call some youth for next week’s tough visit to a des­per­ate Pen­rith look­ing to creep into the top eight.

Cow­boys coach Paul Green praised the ef­forts of his bat­tered side, call­ing their ef­fort un­be­liev­ably coura­geous.

“We went with four for­wards on the bench and guys were play­ing out of po­si­tion all over the place and play­ing longer min­utes.

“I was so proud of them tonight, I re­ally was.

“I said to the boys af­ter the game I’ve never been in­volved in a game where so many things have gone against us. “

The in­juries ended any hope the Cow­boys had of test­ing them­selves against the bench­mark af­ter their in­ten­sity was found want­ing in the se­cond half of last week’s 22- 16 loss to the sec­ond­placed Roost­ers.

De­spite play­ing with just two men on the bench for more than 50 min­utes the Cow­boys showed ad­mirable courage against the best team in the com­pe­ti­tion in front of a bumper 21,380 crowd.

The Cow­boys will be sixth or sev­enth on the lad­der at the end of the week­end, and must win at least one more g game in the tough­estg home ome stretch in the league to se­cure a fi­nals spot.

The in­juries forced a dra­matic reshuf­fle with young wreck­ing ball Coen Hess play­ing out of po­si­tion at left cen­tre mark­ing Queens­land Ori­gin star Will Cham­bers, and the Storm pep­pered North Queens­land’s left edge all game.

The premier­ship favourite’s class even­tu­ally ground a brave North Queens­land down as the un­der­manned hosts tired down the back stretch.

The Storm were far from their clin­i­cal best and made some sim­ple er­rors, par­tic­u­larly early, but the win fur­ther ce­mented their stran­gle­hold on the mi­nor premier­ship.

Storm full­back Billy Slater con­tin­ued his su­perb form with three try as­sists, a line break and two line break as­sists, while flashy wingers Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo- Carr both bagged dou­bles.

The Cow­boys got off to an aw­ful start when winger Kyle Feldt dropped a bomb, with Mel­bourne’s left winger Josh Addo- Carr scor­ing in the right cor­ner off a set play from the scrum.

De­spite their in­jury trou­bles the Cow­boys took the lead 6- 4 af­ter 14 min­utes when in­form hooker Jake Granville snuck over from dummy half.

A penalty goal ex­tended the lead to 8- 4 mid­way through the first half.

With Hess play­ing out of po­si­tion at cen­tre, Cham­bers took ad­van­tage of the mis­match to score and give Mel­bourne their first lead 10- 8 af­ter 28 min­utes.

Just be­fore the break the Storm ex­tended the lead to 16- 8 when Slater’s kick found an un­marked Suliasi Vunivalu for his 39th try in his se­cond NRL sea­son, break­ing the pre­vi­ous record.

The Cow­boys bravely held out Mel­bourne for much of the se­cond half be­fore an­other Slater kick found Vunivalu for his se­cond to seal the re­sult with 15 min­utes left.

Pic­ture: WES­LEY MONTS

THANKS BOYS: Mel­bourne Storm winger Suliasi Vunivalu af­ter scor­ing one of his two tries against the NQ Cow­boys at 1300SMILES Sta­dium.

TRY TIME:TIME StormS winger Josh Addo- Carr scored a dou­ble.

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