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Composure sees Warriors past Cowboys
By Robert Lowe
18:07 AEST Sun Jul 1 2012

Warriors coach Brian McClennan is heartened by the signs of maturity from his young side after they held off a North Queensland fightback to close out a 35-18 NRL win in Auckland.

Being chased down after establishing early leads had been an Achilles heel for the Warriors this season.

Against North Queensland on Sunday, they sprinted to a 16-0 advantage, but found their opponents snapping their heels as the margin closed to just four points with 30 minutes to go.

However, they showed good composure to pin the Cowboys down with repeat sets before hooker Nathan Friend, back after two months out with a broken jaw, scored the try that pulled them clear.

Lewis Brown's late touchdown and then a James Maloney field goal blew out the margin as the Warriors stayed within two points of the top eight.

McClennan admitted that he was nervous when the scoreboard showed 22-18 and with the visitors having the momentum.

"What I was pleased about was that, once we got our chance with good ball, we stayed mature with it and got a repeat set," he said.

"The next set, we didn't overplay and got another one. We hung in there until Nathan Friend got over from dummy half."

It was that calmness that he wanted the Warriors to reproduce on a consistent basis.

Cowboys coach Neil Henry lamented his players' early errors, which contributed to their slow start.

But he praised their fightback and at 22-18 felt the Warriors looked vulnerable.

While he credited the home side for the pressure they then exerted for Friend's try, he believed the Cowboys missed a great chance to snatch victory.

"It was there, but it was taken away," he said.

"We just couldn't sustain it."

The Cowboys were missing four of their big names - Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Brent Tate and James Tamou - on Origin duty.

But Henry said his team had come to Auckland to win, "irrespective of other people's opinions about who we've got out".

Defeat dropped the Cowboys one place to seventh and was compounded by a shoulder injury to halfback Ray Thompson.

The Warriors also ended with an injury concern, with blockbusting centre Konrad Hurrell pulling a hamstring late in the game and being in doubt for the away match against Gold Coast next weekend.

It was a Hurrell try, and two from fellow centre Ben Henry, that took the Warriors out to their early lead.

The Cowboys struck back through centre Kane Linnett, but when a superb short ball from the mercurial Feleti Mateo sent prop Jacob Lillyman over, the Warriors had restored the 16-point margin.

However, tries on either side of halftime by Ashley Graham and Gavin Cooper closed the contest right up, before Friend eased the anxiety among the home fans in the 15,372 crowd.