Full-time: Warriors 35-18 Cowboys
The Warriors survived some tense moments to take the win after throwing everything but the kitchen sink at a brave Cowboys outfit that seemed determined to cling on and snatch an upset win.
The middle period of the second 40 was the defining part of the game and perhaps of the Warriors season as the Cowboys came back within four before the home side showed the resolve and control to close the game out - a quality that has been missing from their play over the past month.
The Cowboys showed tremendous spirit and did well to get
themselves back in the match when they could have easily folded
after what was a nightmare opening quarter.
Warriors coach Brian McClennan and their band of loyal fans will be pleased their side produced the kind of performance that showed a semi-final spot is not out of the question.
At times the Warriors looked over-excited on attack and pushed passes when greater patience was needed. Skipper Simon Mannering was rock-solid in defence but he and Konrad Hurrell were guilty of throwing a couple of loose passes, yet overall the Warriors were strong across the park.
The big men did their job up-front allowing the likes of Feleti Mateo to wreak havoc in conjunction with the little men, Johnson, Maloney and Locke, particularly down their favoured left side.
Missed opportunities could have proven costly with four scoring chances going begging which allowed the Cowboys to remain in the hunt until Lewis Brown's 70th-minute back-breaker.
Referee's Ashley Klein and Brett Suttor made some curious decisions which had the home crowd baying for blood but the Warriors were good enough to overcome those calls and take the points.
Tune in again next Saturday night from 9.30pm for more live scoring updates of the Warriors clash against the Gold Coast Titans!
73mins Warriors 35-18 Cowboys
James Maloney capitalises on another great run from Mateo to bang over a field-goal to put another nail in the Cowboys coffin. The Warriors seemed to have learned their lessons from recent heart-breaking losses and are closing the game out in style.
70mins Warriors 34-18 Cowboys
TRY! Lewis Brown barges over from dummy-half to score what should be the match-winner for the Warriors. The opportunity came after Shau n Johnson raced 45 metres off a beautiful Feleti Mateo short-ball before being dragged down by the experienced Bowen. Maloney's kick from wide out is on-target to further extend their lead.
68mins Warriors 28-18 Cowboys
TRY! Warriors hooker Nathan Friend scurried around from dummy-half to plant the ball down beside the posts to give them their much needed fifth try. Maloney again converted to put the 10-points ahead.
The Warriors will be relieved to have finally cracked the Cowboys after three repeat sets proved fruitless before Friend's try. Shaun Johnson has been in sublime touch and looked lethal with every touch.
53mins Warriors 22-18 Cowboys
TRY! The Cowboys punnished the Warriors right-side defence when five-eighth Michael Morgan busted through and chose Gavin Cooper from several supporting players to run around and score under the posts. Bowen's conversion was a formality making it just a four-point ball-game.
The second-half has tightened right up and has become a war of attrition up the middle to contrast the free-flowing nature of the first half.
Do the Warriors have the mettle to kick-on and close the game
44mins Warriors 22-12 Cowboys
Warriors winger Bill Tupou came close to scoring in the western corner but, as happened to Slaimankhel in the first-half, the Cowboys defence held firm to force him over the sideline.
Cowboys reserve prop Jason Taumalolo is making some barnstorming runs and troubling the Warriors up the middle...
41mins Warriors 22-12 Cowboys
James Maloney kicks-off the second half for the home side as they now run towards the Manukau Harbour end of the stadium. Can they hold out the Cowboys for a much-needed win?
Half-time: Warriors 22-12 Cowboys
The Warriors were rampant in the opening exchanges, showing great energy in attack and enthusiasm in defence to starve the visitors of the football.
The Cowboys hardly touched the footy and had to make almost 90 tackles in the first 15 minutes, with the Warriors forcing three errors and controlling possession.
The Cowboys seemed undeterred by their slow start and Linnett's classy effort gave them a timely confidence boost but the injury to halfback Thompson had a big impact on their attacking structure.
Matt Bowen showed how vital he is to his sides cause, having a hand in both their tries and looking dangerous with every touch.
For the Warriors, Shaun Johnson and James Maloney have kicked well, both for territory and to the ingoal to force repeat sets, while props Russell Packer and Sione Lousi have helped their side motor up-field.
The home side are clearly benefitting from the return of hooker Nathan Friend who is helping to tighten up their ruck defence, while the big forwards are getting off their line quickly to get in the face of their Cowboy's opposites.
Warriors coach Brian McClennan will ask his side to maintain their enthusiasm in the tackle and perhaps demonstrate greater patience on attack, and they will need to be just as good in the second stanza to hold out a Cowboys outfit with nothing to lose.
Stay tuned for what should be a thrilling second 40!
31mins Warriors 22-12 Cowboys
TRY! The Cowboys get their second with winger Ashley Graham capitalising on a great Matt Bowen ball to dive over close to the western touchline. Bowen's conversion is straight down the middle to put his side right back in the game as half-time approaches.
26mins Warriors 22-6 Cowboys
TRY! Feleti Mateo is in great touch today, throwing a great short ball to prop Jacob Lillyman to stroll over under the posts and register their fourth try of the afternoon. Maloney banged his kick over to put them 16-points in front.
Thompson's shoulder injury is worse than first thought and he won't be returning to the field, Anthony Mitchell is on for his first start in Cowboys colours.
23mins Warriors 16-6 Cowboys
Jonathan Thurston's replacement Ray Thompson sufferred a shoulder injury while cleaning up a Johnson grubber to the ingoal and was forced from the field.
The Warriors very nearly notched a fourth try to Omar
Slaimankhel but he was forced over the sideline before he could
ground the football. The Warriors are hot on attack once
18mins Warriors 16-6 Cowboys
TRY! The Cowboys hit back with their first attacking opportunity in the Warriors half. Matt Bowen fed centre Kane Linnett who ran a great line to beat Hurrell on the outside to score out wide and notch his fifth try of the year. Matt Bowen's conversion from the eastern touchline is on the money.
12mins Warriors 16-0 Cowboys
TRY! The Warriors get their third with the Cowboys hardly having touched the football. James Maloney hoisted a towering bomb which Locke contested with Bowen, Locke was able to clean it up and fed henry who raced in for his second. Maloney made simple work of the conversion to give his side a healthy lead early on. The Warriors are looking fresh after their week off with the bye.
9mins Warriors 10 -0 Cowboys
TRY! The Warriors make ammends with a try out wide to centre Konrad Hurrell. James Maloney ran a second-man play and threw it to Locke who showed great hands to move it on to the hulking Hurrell to crash over near the sideline. Maloney's conversion from the sideline is astray.
6mins Warriors 6-0 Cowboys
A second try goes begging for the hosts after Feleti Mateo made huge break before throwing it inside to Kevin Locke when the better option was on his outside. The ball went to ground after Locke tried to find support and the Cowboys were able to regather possession.
4mins Warriors 6-0 Cowboys
TRY! The warriors get the perfect start with a try to centre Ben Henry. Shaun Johnson attacked the left edge and cut through before throwing an inside ball to Henry to race over near the posts. James Maloney converted to give them the full compliment of points.
0mins Warriors 0-0 Cowboys
Matt Bowen kicks off for the Cowboys to get us underway! The Warriors are running towards the city end of the ground in the first half. There is a real chill in the air but the afternoon sun is beaming down on a strong Mt Smart crowd on what is a beautiful afternoon for rugby league.
Welcome to one.news.co.nz's live scoring updates of the Warriors round 17 NRL clash against the North Queensland Cowboys live from Mt Smart Stadium.
With 10 games remaining in the season, this match shapes up as a must-win for the home side as their semi-final hopes hang precariously in the balance with the Warriors currently sitting in ninth spot and two points outside the top eight.
They require seven wins to ensure a home qualifying semi-finals spot, with four more home games after today which they would be confident of claiming, however that campaign needs to start now against what is an Origin-affected Cowboys line-up.
Cowboy Matt Bowen has been rushed over from the Maroon's camp to take his place at fullback today, yet they are without star playmaker Jonathan Thurston, Matt Scott, James Tamou and Warriors' old boy Brent Tate.
Chief concern for Brian McClennan's side however, is producing an 80-minute effort and maintaining their focus and concentration for the duration, as they have been punished in three of their last four outings for clocking-off before the job was done.
The talent is there in this Warriors side to reproduce last year's run in the finals race and with the homeground advantage and with plenty to play for it would take a complete capitulation for them not to take the points today.
A bonus for them is the return from injury of hooker Nathan
Friend, which for one of the few times this season allows them to
field their first-choice spine of the classy dummyhalf, halves
Shaun Johnson and James Maloney, and fullback Kevin Locke.
For the Warriors, Omar Slaimankhel has been brought into the side in place of Glenn Fisiiahi, while backrower Feleti Mateo starts with Lewis Brown shifting to the bench.
The Cowboys have just one change with mid-season buy Anthony Mitchell joining their reserves in place of Cory Patterson.
In the earlier game, the Junior Warriors made short work of the young Cowboys, coming out 48-16 winners.
Stand-by for what should be a cracking game with kick-off scheduled for 4.05pm.
Warriors: Kevin Locke, Bill Tupou, Ben Henry, Konrad Hurrell, Glen Fisiiahi, James Maloney, Shaun Johnson, Russell Packer, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Lewis Brown, Simon Mannering, Elijah Taylor.
Interchange: Jacob Lillyman, Micheal Luck, Sione Lousi, Feleti Mateo, Steve Rapira.
Cowboys: Matthew Bowen, Ashley Graham, Antonio Winterstein, Kane Linnett, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Michael Morgan, Ray Thompson, Ashton Sims, Aaron Payne, Ricky Thorby, Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Dallas Johnson.
Interchange: Joel Riethmuller, Scott Bolton, Jason Taumalolo, Cory Paterson, Mosese Pangai.