Cowboys kick a hole in Bulldogs’ finals hopes
It was a finish fit for the North Queensland faithful.
North Queensland's spiritual home of rugby league for the past 25 seasons came to a close in the tightest of tussles, with the Cowboys downing the Bulldogs 15-8 at 1300Smiles Stadium.
In a horror year for the Cowboys club, the players displayed some last-minute grit and determination to give their fans finally something to smile about.
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And it was only fitting that one of North Queensland's favourite sons Scott Bolton capped off the win with a successful conversion attempt in his last ever NRL game in Townsville.
It was an emotional evening for the 15,141 North Queensland faithful who turned up in droves and travelled hours to bid farewell to the hallowed ground.
But the Bulldogs didn't make it easy for the home team with scores locked at 8-all with four minutes to go.
Enter Jordan Kahu, the field goal specialist from Red Hill, to seal the win for his new home team and slot a 20m field goal with three minutes on the clock.
The home ground farewell was also Bolton's last home game and a chance for the North Queensland fans to show their support to retiring veteran Matt Scott.
In what was supposed to be Scott's final home game in Cowboys colours, the 34-year-old was instead resting up in a Townsville hospital recovering from a mild stroke he suffered more than a week ago.
And though his No.8 jersey was retired for Thursday night's match, his forwards teammates did their best to step up in his 110kg place.
The Bulldogs travelled up to Townsville hoping to spoil the party for the home side and continue their run of success at the back end of the season.
But the loss was also curtains for their finals' chances after remarkably having a slim chance of making the top eight.
The low-scoring affair epitomised the Cowboys season so far - with the talent to beat any team in the competition but failing to convert it into points.
As the Cowboys begin to look towards 2020, the club will need to find themselves a consistent halves pairing for skipper Michael Morgan.
It was a seesawing arm wrestle in the opening half with neither side able to find the tryline scores locked at 2-all going into the break.
After 50 minutes of end-to-end football, Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt finally found the tryline to keep his incredible 1300Smiles Stadium try-scoring record intact.
Feldt made it 20 tries from 20 games at his home ground to take the Cowboys out to an 8-4 lead.
But the Bulldogs were able to hit back soon after through right hand winger Jayden Okunbor to lock scores up at 8-all with 20 minutes to go.
Bizarrely, Cowboys coach Paul Green used up all eight of his interchange options with 17 minutes still left in the game and on a warm, humid evening in Townsville it seemed to sap the energy out of his 13 men on the field.
But Kahu's fifth field goal of his NRL career extended their lead out to 9-8 before a late try to young back-rower Shane Wright sealed the win for the home team.