Salford have still not won a match in the World Club Championship, but they performed with credit yesterday in one that only got away from them irretrievably in the last few minutes.
Despite the loss of John Cartwright before the match and Andy Platt three minutes into it, Salford competed well, led twice in the first half and were within four points until Glen Murphy went in for the clinching try in the 77th minute.
A thoroughly entertaining contest between two well-matched sides got into its stride when the North Queensland captain, Ian Roberts, was sent to the sin-bin for pulling back Steve Blakeley. Blakeley duly slotted over the penalty.
That slender lead lasted until the 24th minute, when Andrew Dunemann and Peter Jones combined for John Skardon to go in for the Cowboys' first points, Luke Phillips kicking the first of his four conversions.
It took a fortunate bounce to put Salford back into the lead. Ian Watson's kick rebounded off Roberts, and Watson then took the ball, after Nathan McAvoy had scooped it up, to send Darren Rogers around the outside for a try which Blakeley converted.
A fluctuating game took its next turn when Kyle Warren slipped a pass out of the tackle for Owen Cunningham to score. When Dunemann figured twice in the move that set up Phillips for his try 17 minutes into the second half, it seemed that Salford could go the way of so many other British teams in this competition - competing for part of the match and then falling apart.
But then Paul Southern's pass sent Peter Edwards racing in and Salford had one outstanding chance to snatch a victory eight minutes from time.
McAvoy would have done astonishingly well to hang on to a difficult pass, but when it went down it took Salford's last opportunity with it.
The Queenslanders always had the better support play and Dunemann and Warren constructed the opening for Murphy's pay-off.
It had been a spirited effort, though, in front of one of this tournament's better crowds and the North Queensland coach, Tim Sheens, admitted that his side had had little to spare.
The Cowboys finished the match without Roberts who went off with neck and knee problems that will rule him out of their final game against Leeds.
With John Lomax already at home because of a bereavement, Sheens will send back to Australia for a front-row replacement, even though their chances of reaching the quarter-finals have probably already gone. It will also take some freakish scorelines to get Salford into the last eight.
Salford: Broadbent; Sini, Naylor, McAvoy, Rogers; Blakeley, Watson; Platt, Edwards, Eccles, Savelio, Faimalo, Randall. Substitutes used: Lee, Martin, Forber, Southern.
North Queensland: Warren; Shipway, Bowman, Mercy, Phillips; Skardon, A Dunemann; Roberts, Walters, Locke, Jones, Murphy, Cunningham. Substitutes used: Loomans, Cressbrook, Scott, Doyle.
Referee: S Presley (Castleford).Reuse content