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The Newcastle Knights lost 26-24 to the North Queensland Cowboys in an ANZAC Day blockbuster that went down to the wire.

In a game that had everybody on the edge of their seats the Knights fought back from a 20-6 deficit in the space of 20 minutes.

The Cowboys were struck an early blow with Jason Taumalolo limping off after his first tackle.
Four minutes later hooker Jake Granville was taken from the field when his head clashed with Akuila Uate's.

Despite losing two men in quick succession the Cowboys managed to grab themselves a penalty 30 metres out from the Knights' line with nine minutes played. They looked to be building pressure near the Knights' line until Jonathan Thurston threw a forward-pass and earned the men in red and blue a reprieve.

The Knights quickly went up the other end and with the help of a penalty ten metres out Korbin Sims crossed over the line.

The video referee ruled that he had been held up over the line, but the Knights weren't to be denied.

Two minutes later Chris Houston crossed over for his third try in five weeks with the help of some great build-up play from his halves. Tyrone Roberts nailed the kick to give the Knights a 6-0 lead with 14 minutes played.

The Cowboys grabbed a try of their own two minutes later, Thurston stripping Kurt Gidley of the ball five metres out to give Scott Bolton a try. Thurston added the extras, boosting the score to 6-6.

Fullback Lachlan Coote made it two tries for the Cowboys in the next set, throwing a neat dummy to slide over on the left edge. Thurston again kicked well, giving his side a 12-6 lead with 21 minutes played.

The Knights were on the ropes, but when Thurston was bearing down on the try-line five minutes later pivot Jarrod Mullen came up with an outstanding tackle that saw the ball spill free.

Jeremy Smith went off with Sione Mata'utia moving to lock in the 28th minute, and two minutes later Joey Leilua crossed over. The video referee ruled that he had lost contact with the ball though, and the Cowboys raced up the other end and looked certain to a score a try, only for Uate to come up with a crucial touch to force the ball dead.

The Cowboys weren't to be denied in their next set, Justin O'Neill crossing over on the right edge with the Knights struggling to organise themselves in defence. Thurston's conversion was waved away this time, but the Cowboys still took a 16-6 lead into the sheds at half-time.

Things didn't start well for the Knights early in the second half, with Justin O'Neill crossing over for his second try barely two minutes after the kick-off. Thurston's conversion again sailed wide to keep the score at 20-6.

The Knights came close in the 51st minute with Leilua forcing his way over, but again the video referee ruled that he had been held up.

Korbin Sims broke through the line in the next play, but again the Cowboys' defence stood up, this time via Coote five metres out.

Third time proved lucky for the Knights as in the next set Uate left his markers for dead and ran 50 metres to score beneath the uprights. Roberts' conversion was accurate, pushing the score to 20-12 with 26 minutes to play.

The Cowboys were next to score thanks to three questionable penalties in quick succession, Michael Morgan evading some close attention from Jeremy Smith to cross over in the 61st minute. Thurston was successful with his kick this time, pushing his side's lead to 26-12.

Both sides continued to push, and on the back of an 80 metre set Leilua finally got his try with a powerful run from dummy-half. Roberts was on target with his conversion, the score now 26-18 with ten minutes to play.

And the Knights weren't done. Roberts broke through the line in the next set 50 metres out. With defenders looming he passed to Mata'utia, who juggled the ball and fended off a challenge from Thurston to score his first try of the year. Roberts again converted and the Knights were now only two points behind with seven minutes left on the clock.

With it becoming make-or-break time the Knights turned the ball over one too many times. The Cowboys managed to hold onto their slender lead, the final score 26-24.


Newcastle Knights 24 (T: Houston, Uate, Leilua, S Mata'utia G: Roberts 4/4)
North Queensland Cowboys 26 (T: Bolton, Coote O'Neill 2, Morgan; G: Thurston 3/5)