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Raiders hammer Tigers, Cowboys win again

Getty

Getty

Lachlan Coote has put his hand up for a maiden NSW State of Origin jersey after leading North Queensland to a 32-16 NRL win over fellow title contenders Parramatta.

The off-contract Cowboys’ custodian scored one try and saved another two on Saturday as the Townsville side maintained second spot on the ladder with a strong victory in front of 19,308 at 1300SMILES Stadium.

The fourth-placed Eels travelled to far North Queensland with high hopes but the Cowboys held off a second-half fightback to confirm themselves as premiership front-runners along with Brisbane.

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While the score was a blowout in the end, it did not reflect the strength of the Eels’ performance, with the Cowboys continuing their unbeaten run at home in 2016.

Coote was a standout in the opening stanza as the home side jumped out to a 14-0 lead at the break.

After combining nicely with Michael Morgan and pulling off two huge plays to deny Eels four-pointers, including a gutsy tackle on prop Danny Wicks, calls grew louder for Coote to be named the NSW No.1 ahead of James Tedesco and Josh Dugan.

The Eels stormed back into the contest after the break when Semi Radradra grabbed a double in the space of nine minutes before a Michael Jennings length-of-the field effort evened the scores.

josh hodgson canberra

Josh Hodgson was outstanding for Canberra. Photo: Getty

However, the Eels were the victims of their own ill discipline, with the sin-binning of five-eighth Corey Norman for a professional foul in the 66th minute proving the turning point.

Johnathan Thurston took advantage of the Eels’ 12-man defensive line to send Antonio Winterstein over before Morgan sealed it with a late double.

Earlier on Saturday, Canberra handed Wests Tigers their sixth straight NRL loss – and biggest of the season by far – with a brutal 60-6 win at GIO Stadium on Saturday.

Hooker Josh Hodgson was a standout and winger Jordan Rapana scored four stunning tries as the Raiders more than made up for two recent dismal performances against Parramatta and Cronulla.

Englishman Hodgson had four try assists and was as influential as ever around the ruck, justifying his lead in the Dally M Medal count heading into this round.

Coach Ricky Stuart called on his forwards to “man up” this week and that they did, no doubt impressing the 100-plus past players watching from the stands – including club legends Craig Bellamy and Mal Meninga.

Paul Vaughan and Josh Papalii led the way, with Vaughan scoring a try and clocking up 172m from 18 runs.

Rapana and BJ Leilua (two tries) were again a lethal combination on the right edge as both crossed for four-pointers multiple times.

And Canterbury star Josh Reynolds overcame a horror final 20 minutes against Gold Coast to nail the match-winning field goal in his side’s 21-20 golden point NRL win.

The Bulldogs pivot had earlier appeared to wrap up the match after he set up his second try of the afternoon to give his side a commanding 12-point lead midway through the second half.

In wet conditions at ANZ Stadium, it should’ve been enough.

But Reynolds was then partly responsible for consecutive Titans tries in the space of seven minutes that not only sent the game to extra time, but almost cost his team victory.

The former NSW State of Origin pivot was first marched for backchat in the lead-up to David Mead’s try, then his tapback off a Moses Mbye bomb led to Josh Hoffman racing 80 metres to level the game.

However, in a typical Jekyll-and-Hyde performance, Reynolds stood up to the plate and delivered a clutch 35-metre field goal in the extra period to consolidate Canterbury’s spot in the top eight.

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