McGuire, Morgan help Cowboys snap losing streak
AN emotion-charged performance from Cowboys hard man Josh McGuire has led the side to tough out an unlikely 17-10 win in Auckland.
In his milestone 200th NRL game, McGuire was a man possessed as he ran for more than 200m from his 23 carries and made 39 tackles in what was a much-improved defensive effort against New Zealand Warriors.
But it was the late game management from Cowboys captain Michael Morgan that proved the match winner with the halfback slotting a late field goal to put the result beyond doubt.
It was a match set in the trenches, with both the Cowboys and Warriors entering an arm wrestle without a lot of attacking fluency.
But it was with the boot that the visitors got the upper hand, with Morgan taking control of the game with his kicking game finding an incredible 470m off the boot including a 40-20 which turned the momentum late in the contest.
The unlikely victory on enemy soil arrested a four-match losing streak for the Cowboys, but coach Paul Green would not suggest it has turned their season around.
"I am not prepared to say it has turned our season around, but it is a good start. I think it started a couple of weeks ago, there has been a shift in how we have prepared," Green said.
"I think last week was a step in the right direction and it is good we have built on that. It is important we continue to do that. I was rapt with the win.
"We controlled the ball well, and our defence was an improvement. There is still a little way to go there, but our ball control and how we defended in the early part of the halves set us up to finish over the top of them."
The Warriors dominated the early stage of the clash, setting up several chances midway through the first half before recalled Cowboys winger Justin O'Neill was caught out well in off his wing to allow Ken Maumolo to burst into the backfield and cross the stripe.
The Cowboys hit back soon after through the electrifying talent of Jake Clifford, who stepped through three would-be tacklers before sending Coen Hess across to score.
The hosts would again create chances on the edges, but they would rue the missed opportunities with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck throwing an intercept after a 50m break and David Fusitu'a being disallowed a try for an Adam Blair obstruction play.
Tuivasa-Sheck was once again the Warriors best, and he would show he had learned his lesson early in the second half after he tucked the ball under his arm and went himself after slicing through a large hole between Clifford and Hess.
But the hosts lead would be rather short lived after an error from the Warriors captain invited the Cowboys down their end of Mt Smart Stadium. Morgan would take the reins producing a grubber from the back of the scrum would allow O'Neill to land a blow against his former club.
Morgan would take the reins from that moment, dictating the pace of the game before finding a wobbly one-pointer to seal the victory.
"I thought as the game went on (Morgan) started to get himself into the game more which is what we needed. He got the field goal which was a big play," Green said.
"If you miss that the Warriors are down the other end, they are very good off a 20m restart. I thought he was good and had some nice plays toward the end of the game."
But it was in the middle third where the Cowboys excelled with veteran prop Matt Scott and partner Jordan McLean putting their hands up for extra workload.
But it was McGuire who was the star of the show leading the game in runs and metres gained and leading his side for tackles made.
"It was a huge effort for him. It was his 200th game so I think he was ready for a big effort regardless of what happened out there, and he certainly delivered that for his teammates," Green said.
"The best part about a milestone game like that is everybody digs in for that person and makes it memorable for him.
"200 NRL games is a big achievement and you want to remember those games for the right reasons and I think he was determined to do that tonight."