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Cowboys grab golden-point win over Raiders

NZN 4/03/2017 Rohan O'Neil

North Queensland's 2017 season is off to a winning start after Gavin Cooper scored a bizarre try in golden point to sink a gallant Canberra Raiders 20-16.

The evergreen Cowboys second-rower ensured the Cowboys got the last laugh in their season opener after a Johnathan Thurston field goal attempt cannoned in to the crossbar then sat up perfectly for Cooper to pounce on.

An undermanned Raiders battled through a mountain of defence and were on the wrong side of a 60-40 possession count but they forced extra time when Joey Leilua crossed in the 77th minute.

There are few, if any, more passionate coaches in the NRL than the Raiders' Ricky Stuart and the former Test and Origin half was full of pride for his side while equally frustrated with the officiating.

The visitors had to cop an 11-4 penalty count and a soft second-half sin binning of prop Clay Priest.

Stuart was left incensed by a number of decisions against his squad.

"They (North Queensland) had enough possession and enough play go their way tonight. They should've beat us by four, five tries," Stuart said.

"I can't believe how we hung in there right to the end with some of the things that happened to the team tonight, I just shake my head.

"They don't become repeated penalties or repeated infringements if the opposition gets penalised for what you're getting penalised for.

"I don't want to be the one sitting here being critical of referees... I'm just frustrated how the run of play went tonight."

The incredible extra time ending capped a dogged but entertaining clash between last year's two beaten preliminary finalists and there was plenty of feeling in a heated second half after Raiders fullback Zac Santo and his Cowboys counterpart Lachlan Coote traded first-half tries.

Maroons enforcer Josh Papali cut his way through some poor Cowboys defence after 12 minutes before handing off to Charters Towers product Santo who sprinted 40 metres for the Raiders' first try of 2017.

A Kyle Feldt error on the very next set put Canberra in prime attacking position and they looked certain to double their advantage before Thurston halted a rampaging Iosia Soliola metres out from the try line.

The Cowboys co-captain's big hit seemed to energise the 2015 premiers and after a period of sustained pressure Coote latched on to a Matt Scott offload and scooted over after 29 minutes.

The Raiders struck first in the second half through Leilua before the Cowboys finally made their mountain of possession count when Coen Hess and Javid Bowen crossed in quick succession to put the home side up six.

A costly Bowen error gifted Leilua his double in the dying minutes before Cooper's once-in-a-lifetime match winner ensured the crowd at 1300SMILES Stadium went home with smiles on their faces.

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