It was Johnathan Thurston’s night, but Jake Granville stole the show.
North Queensland were staring down the barrel of defeat against the Warriors in Townsville on Saturday night before Granville scored his third try for the night in the final two minutes to secure a 28-24 win.
Johnathan Thurston was playing his 250th NRL match, but the Warriors grabbed the early limelight with a 12-0 lead, which wasn’t overtaken until the 78th minute.
With two tries already to his name, Granville sold the Warriors a massive dummy to score next to the sticks, with Thurston’s conversion the icing on the cake.
The Cowboys have scored first just once in 2015, and that continued in a first-half start that nightmares are made of.
A Thurston knock-on from a regulation kick and back-to-back kickoffs that went out on the full from Lachlan Coote gifted the Warriors valuable field position.
And they cashed in – Bodene Thompson picked up the crumbs of the Thurston error to hand off to Konrad Hurrell to score, and Jonathan Wright crossed on the right edge to open up a shock 12-0 lead in the ninth minute.
Coote, who blew up after his twin errors, hauled the Cowboys back into the match as the Warriors’ ball control crumbled. The fullback laid on the final pass for Granville and Kane Linett tries to cut the margin back to just two.
But Hurrell couldn’t believe his luck when a Cowboys knock-on put the ball straight into his arms before halftime, and the hulking centre tore upfield only to be denied by a Michael Morgan tackle.
Solomone Kata scored on the next play, though, and the visitors carried a 16-10 lead into the break.
The second half was Groundhog Day for the Cowboys, as Hurrell again sliced through and Kata again seemed destined to score, only to knock on with the line in sight.
But Manu Vatuvei made no mistage in the 49th minute as he eclipsed Nigel Vagana to become the most prolific Kiwi try-scorer in the NRL thanks to his 141st four-pointer.
Then came the Thurston brilliance.
The Cowboys talisman hoisted a perfect high ball that looked certain to hit the crossbar, bamboozling Warriors fullback Tuimoala Lolohea and gifting Coote a try. Thurston’s conversion cut the deficit back to just six.
An extra effort from Cowboys prop James Tamou gave the Warriors a penalty in front of the sticks, which Shaun Johnson duly converted to give New Zealand an eight-point lead with 15 minutes to play.
But when the Warriors coughed up possession 20m from their own line, Granville grabbed his double and Thurston converted to draw the Cowboys to back within two points.