THE Cowboys got the points via yet another ridiculous Johnathan Thurston play, but it was the Raiders who sent the real shudder down the spines of their NRL rivals.
An extra-time, 84th-minute field-goal attempt by Thurston took the underside of the crossbar before lobbing into the path of teammate Gavin Cooper, who dotted down for a madcap 20-16 opening win for North Queensland.
But defensive grit unlike we've ever seen from this Canberra mob - who have already shown they're the NRL's most entertaining side - was the biggest takeaway from Townsville.
We know that when a game's in the fire, JT will pull it out. And Gavin Cooper will be right there beside him.
Not to take anything away from the Cowboys. But as tensions simmered throughout in the tropics, Canberra handled heat they had no real right to.
A famed round-one win was so close to being their just desserts - Jordan Rapana even had a match-winning, golden-point try pulled back for a forward pass, long after he'd been celebrating like it was 1994 in the nation's capital.
An 11-4 penalty count in the Cowboys favour proved the difference.
By the Raiders ninth infringement, prop Clay Priest was sent to the bin and North Queensland eventually capitalised on their advantage and a glut of possession that saw Canberra make 88 more tackles than their opponents.
But to still be leading after an hour, and keeping a Johnathan Thurston-led attack to just one try in 66 minutes, well Sticky will still put this one away for safe keeping.
When Leilua got across the tryline after 58 minutes, it looked like Canberra could actually put this one away there and then.
For all the Raiders grit and guts, that was not the way it could go. Because Leilua should have already been in the sin bin - with replays showing him landing a clear punch on North Queensland's Gavin Cooper in a scuffle minutes earlier.
And the try should not have been given, with pundits and punters alike confounded when the bunker couldn't spot a double movement from Leilua in reaching out for the tryline.
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