Cowboys bt Titans, seal top-four NRL spot

North Queensland have sealed a top-four finish in the NRL with a hard-fought 32-16 win over Gold Coast in Townsville.

The Cowboys will finish fourth on the ladder and have a double chance in their quest for back-to-back premierships.

Gold Coast, however, are sweating on Sunday’s match between the Wests Tigers and Canberra to know if they’ll reach the finals for the first time since 2010.

A win for the Tigers at Leichhardt would enable them to leapfrog the Titans into eighth spot.

Just like last weekend against Penrith, the Titans made life hard for themselves with a slow start to the match.

The Cowboys opened the scoring through Justin O’Neill in the fifth minute when he outjumped Josh Hoffman to claim a Lachlan Coote kick.

Jarryd Hayne, playing his second match at fullback for the Titans, then came up with a crucial error to allow the Cowboys to extend their lead.

The two-time Dally M medallist appeared to have defused a Cowboys attack but spilt a grubber and Antonio Winterstein pounced to open up a 12-0 lead midway through the half.

It was a costly error by Hayne, who endured a torrid night in the No.1 jersey.

While their superstar recruit wasn’t firing, the Titans resisted a wave of Cowboys pressure and managed to get themselves back into the contest by halftime.

Winger David Mead, who sat out most of the first half undergoing a head-injury assessment after an early collision with Kane Linnett, snared a Nathan Friend cross-field kick to put the visitors on the board in the 32nd minute and ensure the margin was just six points at halftime.

The Cowboys came out firing in the second half and extended their lead to 20-6 through a try to Gavin Cooper and a Johnathan Thurston penalty goal.

Ryan James’ 11th try of the season in the 57th minute gave the Titans hope of securing the win which would have ensured their finals berth.

Cowboys prop James Tamou’s try put the hosts out beyond two converted tries again but the Titans just refused to lie down, Konrad Hurrell running 88 metres with an intercept in the 71st minute to give the visitors hope.

A late injury scare to Cowboys captain Thurston threatened to ruin the premiers’ night but the Queensland and Australian star recovered to set up Cooper for the final try of the match.

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