The Cowboys have kept their season alive with a dominant 34-10 win over the Dolphins in front of a crowd of 33,000 at Suncorp Stadium.
Three-game rookie Zac Laybutt bagged a first-half double, while Kyle Feldt and Scott Drinkwater scored within two minutes of each other to get the Cowboys out to a 24-nil lead at half time.
Drinkwater was everywhere in the first 40 minutes with the star fullback also setting up two tries.
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Things then went from bad to worse for the Dolphins during the first half when Josh Kerr was sinbinned for a hip-drop tackle, while the Cowboys breathed a sigh of relief when Feldt escaped punishment for a kick to the face of Sean O’Sullivan.
It took 15 minutes for the Cowboys to click into gear after the half-time break, but they extended their lead when Murray Taulagi cruised over for a try.
Expert analyst Shane Flanagan highlighted during commentary how “fatigue and pressure” was setting in quickly for the Dolphins — but they finally showed signs of life when Jamayne Isaako crossed for a double.
However the Cowboys bagged one in between through milestone man Peta Hiku after a barnstorming run from Kulikefu Finefeuiaki to put the icing on top of a crucial win.
COWBOYS KEEP SEASON ALIVE
The Cowboys’ finals hopes are still alive after a dominant display against the Dolphins — but there’s more work to do.
Todd Payten’s men knew exactly what they needed to do going into this game — win. Given they sat 10th and two points behind the eighth-placed Rabbitohs, there was no other option.
Cooper Cronk called the Cowboys’ start to the game “electric” after they scored four unanswered tries to shoot out to a 24-nil lead at half time.
Their execution was top notch too, completing at 100 per cent for the first 25 minutes of the game in what Fox League’s Corey Parker said was a “perfect” start.
Even without the ball, the Cowboys came up with some big plays like Tom Dearden and Zac Laybutt’s try-saving tackle on Jamayne Isaako — a moment that expert analyst Shane Flanagan could see sheer “desperation” in.
But Payten was far from stoked at half time. In fact he “gave them a bake,” according to sideline reporter Parker because they only completed one of their final five sets of the first half.
The Cowboys walked away with the much-needed two points, but they’ll be frustrated with the fact they left a couple of tries out there
“They’re just not getting it right, they’re not in-sync, they’re communication is not right,” Flanagan said.
DRINKWATER LEADS COWBOYS’ FIGHT FOR FINALS
It wasn’t a 10/10 performance from Scott Drinkwater but the star fullback was still the Cowboys’ best player, scoring a try and setting up two more in a dominant first half.
Drinkwater had some moments he’d like back like a couple of errors and a wayward conversion attempt, but as Fox League’s expert analyst James Graham said, he’s a “big reason” why the Cowboys are still a chance of playing finals.
“He’s on fire,” Graham said.
“He’s a big reason why the Cowboys are back in the battle for the top eight. He’s one of the in-form players in the competition.”
Cooper Cronk believes Drinkwater is “a bit of a barometer” for the Cowboys and the player that can turn a game on its head.
“They’ve got a lot of role players through the middle third of the field that do all the high percentage plays, but this young man at fullback, he’s got the x-factor,” Cronk said.
“He’s got the ability to break it open with risky plays, high reward and good skill.”
Meanwhile, Shane Flanagan said: “When he gets it right, he gets it very, very right… Some of passing and vision… He’s a fantastic footballer with ball in hand.”
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The Cowboys take on the Dolphins in a must-win game on Friday night to keep their finals hopes alive.
The Cowboys clicked into gear halfway through the season, going on a six-game winning streak including back-to-back wins over the Storm and Panthers.
But they’re now coming off a three-game losing streak that’s seen them slump to 10th on the ladder.
A win will move them one spot to ninth before a tough clash with the defending premiers, Penrith next weekend.
As for the Dolphins, injuries has hit the squad hard and they’ve only managed just one win in their last 10 games — but five of those have been by just 10 points or less.
They get a bit of relief with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, Connelly Lemuelu and Kenny Bromwich all returning from head knocks.
But skipper Jesse Bromwich is out with a groin injury and winger Robert Jennings joins him on the sideline with a knee injury.
The Cowboys have copped an untimely blow with Jeremiah Nanai succumbing to a shoulder injury and Semi Valemei also unavailable due to a knee injury.
Heilum Luki will start in Nanai’s place with Kulikefu Finefeuiaki joining the bench. Murray Taulagi pushes out to Valemei’s wing and Zac Laybutt joins the centres.
Dolphins: 1. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2. Jamayne Isaako 3. Tesi Niu 16. Euan Aitken 5. Jack Bostock 6. Kodi Nikorima 7. Sean O’Sullivan 14. Jarrod Wallace 9. Harrison Graham 10. Mark Nicholls 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Connelly Lemuelu 13. Kenny Bromwich 15. Josh Kerr 17. Herman Ese’ese 18. JJ Collins 19. Isaiya Katoa 22. Kurt Donoghoe
Cowboys: 1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Zac Laybutt 4. Peta Hiku 5. Murray Taulagi 6. Tom Dearden 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Reece Robson 10. Jason Taumalolo 11. Luciano Leilua 12. Heilum Luki 13. Reuben Cotter 14. Jake Granville 15. Coen Hess 16. Griffin Neame 17. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki 18. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown
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