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Manly Sea Eagles vs North Queensland Cowboys, Reuben Cotter, SuperCoach scores, videos, Daly Cherry-Evans, Valentine Holmes, score, results, comeback

The North Queensland Cowboys have pulled off a staggering late comeback to beat the Manly Sea Eagles 28-26 in a blockbuster clash at 4 Pines Park.

Down by 26-12 with seven minutes remaining, the Cowboys scored three quick tries to surge home and stun the hosts.

“The Cowboys win another one with an incredible – if not stupendous – comeback,” Andrew Voss said in commentary for Fox League.

Cooper Cronk was in shock as he exclaimed: “What just happened!?”

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Croker’s CRAZY 10 minute sequence | 01:10

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The Cowboys were rocked before the first whistle was blown when Queensland star Reuben Cotter limped off in the warm-up, suffering a hamstring injury that looks set to rule him out of Origin II.

The Cowboys told Fox League’s Lara Pitt they were hopeful Cotter’s hamstring injury is just a strain rather than a tear, with the gun set for scans once the side returns to Townsville after 4pm tomorrow. FULL STORY

But the North Queensland club was on the back foot from the opening minute, as a high-intensity Manly defence kept the Cowboys locked in their own half.

The Sea Eagles scored twice in the opening half an hour, and could have added a couple more, before the Cowboys fought back in the final ten minutes of the half, scoring through Valentine Holmes to go into half time 10-6 down.

But North Queensland lost Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to a failed HIA late in the first half in another big injury blow.

The Cowboys scored first in the second half before Manly hit back quickly, as Sea Eagles No.9 Lachlan Croker took control in what appeared to be a game-breaking 15-minute period.

Croker set up Manly’s first try of the second half, before scoring a rapid-fire double of his own in the space of less than five minutes, adding a 40-20 kick in the process.

But the Cowboys – down by 14 points with seven minutes to play – surged home with three tries in as many minutes to claim an 11th win for the season and re-assert themselves as top-two contenders.

MATCH CENTRE: Sea Eagles vs Cowboys teams, SuperCoach scores, videos, updates

Lachlan Croker was sensational for the Sea Eagles.Source: Getty Images

COWBOYS ‘LIGHT YEARS AWAY’ FROM PAST WOES

It’s blindingly obvious that the Cowboys are a completely different prospect to last year’s team. But what is remarkable is just how much has changed since last season. On the 11th of June last year – two days after Origin I – Manly racked up their biggest-ever win over the Cowboys, winning 50-18 at Brookvale. That loss was a turning point for the Cowboys season: including that game, they lost 11 of their 12 matches after the bye, finishing second-bottom of the ladder.

They had a horrible first-half this time around against Manly, starting before the game when Reuben Cotter pulled up with an injury. Entering half-time down 10-6 (and it easily could have been worse) and with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow out with a failed HIA, the Cowboys were in all sorts.

Cronk said in the first half: “I won’t say the Cowboys are rattled…but they are definitely far from their best.”

Benji Marshall said during the break: “The Cowboys looked a little bit off in that first half, something wasn’t right. Maybe that Cotter injury had something to do with it.”

The Cowboys could have fallen apart. Sure, they conceded 16 points in the second half, as many as they conceded in the second halves of their last NINE games combined this season, but they fought for every inch.

Payten: “I enjoyed the last seven-eight minutes, absolutely! I thought we played some really good footy at different times throughout that game.

“We played tough, we hung in there, and we were tested at different stages. We lost Reubes in the warmup, both backrowers from last week weren’t playing. We lost hammer half way through. We just kept turning up for each other and got away with the win.”

Cotter ruled out MOMENTS before kickoff | 02:29

That determination was witnessed across the stats sheet – in offloads, for example, they had 16 to Manly’s four. Jeremiah Nanai was evidence of that willingness, making a couple of significant errors before scoring a try and setting up another. But it was perhaps Scott Drinkwater who epitomised their second-half resilience. He had been targeted all night, with aerial bombs as well as by Manly’s impressive defence. But it was his tackle on Daly Cherry-Evans – racing out of the line and catching the half by surprise – that forced the error and set up the winning try in the 76th minute.

As Andrew Voss said in commentary: “The Cowboys of 2022 are light years away from the previous models.”

SEA EAGLES CAN’T BEAT GOOD TEAMS

If ever there was an opportunity to shed their tag as ‘flat track bullies’, it was this. Instead, Manly collapsed at the death. Make that EIGHT losses this season in eight games against teams currently in the top eighth. Their seven wins this season have come against teams currently in the bottom half of the ladder. Only the Titans – last-placed entering the round – are the only team who haven’t yet beaten at least one of the teams currently in the top eight teams.

Des Hasler was his usual animated self at half-time, and his team responded on the back of Lachlan Croker’s brilliance. A couple of key players (Morgan Harper then Kieran Foran) being forced from the field for HIA’s in the second half didn’t help their cause, but giving up a 14-point lead inside the final 10 minutes, and copping three tries in as many minutes, is simply not good enough.

Since Hasler returned to Brookvale in 2019, Manly had beaten the Cowboys in all four of their meetings. That run ended – and in very disappointing fashion.

‘You come to me!’ Townsend OWNS Sutton | 00:49

CROKER ‘THE NEW PRINCE OF BROOKVALE’

As far as individual performances go, Lachlan Croker’s 15-minute period between around the 45th and 70th minutes was as good as it gets.

First, the hooker put up a brilliant kick in the 49th minute for Christian Tuipolotu to score. Then he kicked a 59-metre 40-20. “It’s a humongous kick from Croker…that’s a good as a 40-20 you’ll ever see,” Voss said in commentary. He scored off the following set from a Cherry-Evans grubber.

Three minutes later, he scored again, kicking a grubber onto the posts and desperately diving on the ball to bag his second career try double.

Cronk replied: “When the game is on the line, normally it’s Foran or Cherry-Evans that stands up. Tonight it’s the number 9. He’s blown this game wide open in the last 10 minutes!”

Cronk said: “There might be a new Prince of Brookvale!”

“He’s the Andrew Redmayne of rugby league tonight, Lachlan Croker,” Voss joked.

We can think of a few teams that might be dreaming of Croker backflipping on his conversion from a half to a hooker.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 17: Joel Schuster of the Sea Eagles reacts during the round 15 NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the North Queensland Cowboys at 4 Pines Park, on June 17, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

AS IT HAPPENED

NINTH MINUTE:

After going set-for-set in an intense start to the match, Manly drew first blood when Kieran Foran kicked to the right wing for Christian Tuipulotu to comfortably score.

It came after Foran himself leaped to bat the ball backwards after a Reuben Garrick kick – regathering before kicking to exploit a defensive line that had condensed into the centre of the pitch.

“An outstanding start to this contest. They’ve looked on fire with the ball in hand, Manly,” Cooper Cronk said.

It was one example of the Sea Eagles repeatedly targeting fullback Scott Drinkwater with high bombs, hoping to exploit his size disadvantage.

17TH MINUTE:

Manly had a second Christian Tuipulotu try ruled out due to Haumole Olakau’atu knocking the ball on in the in-goal area.

25TH MINUTE:

Morgan Harper made a brilliant run from dummy half to fool Peter Hiku and burst through the defensive line. He slowed his run to wait for support, and Reuben Garrick received the pass and ran the remaining 50m to score his 11th try of the season – beating some of the NRL’s fastest men along the way – before engaging in a heated face-off with Valentine Holmes.

“They’re rocking and rolling,” Andrew Voss said in commentary for Fox League. “This is a confident Manly tonight.”

27TH MINUTE

Hardly a minute later and Manly nearly increased their advantage before Jeremiah Nanai raced back to defuse a Foran kick that had Dylan Walker looking all-but-certain to score. Voss declared: “That is a magnificent save!”

Andrew Voss said: “And then the short dropout and the Cowboys get a result…from Nanai’s huge play to getting the ball back on the dropout. Could be a turning point…At 10-0, Manly attack there and get another try and you’re talking serious space on the scoreboard.”

35TH MINUTE:

The Cowboys answered in kind after Manly’s second-kick try, with Coen Hess leaping to bat back a Chad Townsend bomb to Townsend, who then kicked to the left wing for Valentine Holmes to gather easily on the tryline and get over the line. It was Holmes’ fifth of the season, and his conversion reduced the deficit to just four points.

And coach Todd Payten was unusually fired up after the try, likely due to his side’s poor performance in the opening half.

38TH MINUTE:

In a bizarre sequence, Cowboys captain Chad Townsend successfully cancelled a captain’s challenge, claiming his teammates – and not himself – had called for the challenge.

Townsend told the referee: “I didn’t call for it, I’m telling you I’m the captain. I didn’t call it.”

Gerrard Sutton apologised then cancelled the challenge.

Soon after, Morgan Harper was lucky to avoid being placed on report or sent to the sin bin when Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow gathered a kick, only for the Manly player to slide in – and knee him in the head – while he was lying on the ground. Tabuai-Fidow would subsequently fail his HIA.

45TH MINUTE:

Scott Drinkwater sent a kick towards the goalposts, and Jake Granville and Andrew Davey both jump up to contest it. It bounces backwards off Davey into the in-goal area, and breakout star Jeremiah Nanai gets there first. That makes it 11 tries for him in 13 games, just two off the club record for most tries in the season!

Holmes makes no mistake from almost right in front and the Cowboys lead for the first time.

49TH MINUTE:

Daly Cherry-Evans is tackled on fourth tackle, and Foran is forced to be dummy-half. With Manly’s two best kickers suddenly out of play, Lachlan Croker – a former half himself – put up a kick to the right flank.

Tuipolotu beats Taulangi to the ball, comes down with it and grounds it. That’s a double for him tonight!

61ST MINUTE:

Croker took over the contest, kicking a 59 metre 40-20 that crossed the line hardly five metres out from the Cowboys’ goal line.

“It’s a humongous kick from Croker…that’s a good as a 40-20 you’ll ever see,” Voss said in commentary.

On the resulting set, Cherry-Evans scythed through the defence with a perfectly-weighted grubber kick under the posts, and Croker surged through a hesitating defence to score.

Voss said: “Lachlan Croker is having an absolutely amazing period of play!”

Cronk replied: “When the game is on the line, normally it’s Foran or Cherry-Evans that stands up. Tonight it’s the number 9. He’s blown this game wide open in the last 10 minutes!”

64TH MINUTE:

Then Croker remarkably scored again, kicking from the 20metre line. His grubber bounced off the post and caused chaos, and somehow he was first to dive onto the ball under the posts.

Voss said: “He’s scored again. This is the most extraordinary six or seven minutes from an unfashionable player!”

Cronk said: “There might be a new Prince of Brookvale!”

It was just his second career double, and his first since 2019.

“He’s the Andrew Redmayne of rugby league tonight, Lachlan Croker,” Voss joked.

The conversion made it 26-12.

73RD MINUTE:

Manly again could not defuse a high kick under their own posts, and Jeremiah Nanai got on the end of it before laying it off to Reece Robson to score.

Cronk was full of praise for Nanai, saying: “His development under the last 12 months under Tott Payten has been amazing.”

74TH MINUTE:

The Cowboys scored again with a scintillating team attacking move, with Holmes sparking an attack before Connelly Lemuelu finished under the posts.

Impressed with their resilience, Voss said: “The Cowboys of 2022 are light years away from the previous models.”

76TH MINUTE:

Valentine Holmes continued the epic comeback, racing nearly 80 metres to score. Scott Drinkwater tackled Cherry-Evans as the Sea Eagles sought to make the pass, with Holmes picking up the bouncing ball and darting up the pitch, before beating a Jason Saab tackle attempt.

Cronk exclaimed: “What just happened!?”

“The Cowboys have stolen this match,” he said later.

80TH MINUTE:

On full time, Coen Hess was sent to the sin bin. Cherry-Evans attempted a last-ditch 45-metre field goal, but his attempt to level the scores went just short and wide.

TEAM NEWS

The Sea Eagles welcome back Queensland and Manly skipper Daly Cherry-Evans from a quad injury with Kieran Foran shifting back to five-eighth and Josh Schuster moving to the bench.

Jake Trbojevic will be looking to play his way into a Blues recall for Origin II, while in form second-rower Haumole Olakau’atu is also in the mix.

The Cowboys have brought in Coen Hess in the second row with Connelly Lemuele switching to the bench in a late change.

The Cowboys will be looking to keep in touch with the Storm and the Panthers for a top two finish, while the Sea Eagles will be hoping to keep in touch with the top eight.

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