Cowboys start title defence with Sharks win, Tigers beat Warriors


North Queensland Cowboys started the defence of their NRL title with a 20-14 victory over Cronulla Sharks in a repeat of last year's semi-final in Townsville on Saturday.

Cowboys coach Paul Green was able to name the same side that beat Brisbane Broncos in a Grand Final thriller last October and outclassed Leeds Rhinos to be crowned world club champions last month.

And they made a winning start to their quest to win back-to-back NRL titles after outscoring the Sharks by three tries to two at 1300SMILES Stadium. 

Justin O'Neill set Green's men - who hammered Cronulla 39-0 to reach the final last year - on their way when he latched onto a kick to score in the corner after 16 minutes and Kane Linnett added a second try five minutes later, with inspirational captain Johnathan Thurston converting both scores.

But Chad Townsend marked his first NRL appearance in his second spell with the Sharks with a try just before half-time and fellow new recruit James Maloney converted to make it 12-6 at the break.

A Thurston penalty extended the Cowboys' lead, but a converted Jack Bird try and a Maloney penalty brought the Sharks level with 20 minutes remaining after captain Paul Gallen limped off. However, Ethan Lowe came up with the winning try six minutes from time.

Wests Tigers withstood a storming second-half fightback from New Zealand Warriors to start the season with a thrilling 34-26 victory at Campbelltown Stadium.

The Tigers opened up a 28-4 lead at half-time after running in five tries, with Mitch Moses pulling the strings. But the Warriors threatened to pull off an incredible victory after Simon Mannering, Bodene Thompson, Shaun Johnson and Solomone Kata went over.

James Tedesco's second try of the game eased the Tigers' nerves with time running out to deny the Warriors, who also lost Ben Henry with a suspected dislocated knee in his first game back after recovering from ligament damage.

New signing Aidan Sezer scored two tries as Canberra Raiders beat Penrith Panthers 30-22. The Raiders lost Blake Austin to a medial ligament, while Penrith hooker James Segeyaro sustained a fractured arm.