The Toyota Cowboys built on their impressive home record in season 2014 by beating the Melbourne Storm 22-0 in their round 12 clash at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight.
North Queensland have now won six from seven at home this year by outscoring the visitors, who were minus State of Origin stars Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, by four tries to nil.
Two tries late in the first half allowed the Cowboys to go into half time with a 16-0 lead and they added a Michael Morgan four-pointer in the second 40.
Backing up from Origin duty, Johnathan Thurston scored a try and his clever general play kicks, which were perfectly placed almost all night, led to two others.
The tireless Matt Scott was again the dominant front-rower on the field, producing a mammoth 21 hit-ups for almost 170 metres.
The win improved NQ’s win-loss record to 6-6.
Back-rower John Asiata made his debut off the bench for the Cowboys with Joel Riethmuller and Anthony Mitchell dropping out of the squad of 18 named on Tuesday. The Storm lost State of Origin stars Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk but skipper Cameron Smith lined up despite an ankle injury sustained on Wednesday night. Cameron Munster debuted for the Storm, replacing Slater, and Tohu Harris was promoted to the starting pack for Hinchcliffe. Junior Moors was added to the bench.
The Cowboys looked like they may have scored the night’s opening points in the 12th minute only to be denied by a contentious call.
Matthew Wright joined Melbourne winger Young Tonumaipea in contesting a Thurston crosskick.
The ball went to ground, Wright fell on it but it was ruled no try, with the video referees, after more than a minute of viewing replays, deciding to stick with the on-field call that the Cowboys winger had knocked on.
The first try ended up coming on the other side of the field – a soaring Antonio Winterstein, with his body in the air over the sideline, tapping back a Thurston kick to Kane Linnett for his seventh try of the season.
JT’s conversion to make it 6-0 midway through the half hit the post and bounced back into the field of play.
State of Origin props Matthew Scott and James Tamou both lasted 25 minutes before they came off for the first time, with the duo combining for a dominant 150 metres in their opening stints.
The video box was in business again on the half-hour mark, confirming a 'no try' for the Cowboys after Cameron Munster had spilled a Thurston high ball.
Munster’s foot prevented Winterstein from successfully taking the rebound.
The Cowboys winger eventually added to the home team’s lead, finishing off an attacking raid to the left in the 36th minute.
Thurston’s conversion from the touch swung through to build the gap to 10 and there was still time left for the champion five-eighth to go over on the final tackle with a sneaky solo effort for his sixth try of the year.
Another JT conversion from the sideline gave NQ a 16-0 lead at the break.
It needed a last-line tackle from Michael Morgan to deny the Storm the opening try of the second 40.
He was able to stop a rampaging Bryan Norrie in the 58th minute, showing once again what an asset he has become at the back for NQ.
With the Cowboys dominating possession 64%-36% at one point, Cam Smith hit the 40-tackle mark with still a quarter of the game remaining.
John Asiata’s debut came with 19 minutes left as he took up a back-row role and at the same time, Robert Lui was put in charge of dummy-half duties for the first time, replacing starting hooker Rory Kostjasyn.
A touch of individual brilliance from Thurston led to the Cowboys’ first try of the half, and fourth for the night, with 15 to go.
He kicked ahead twice and Michael Morgan followed through to get the vital touch to finish the move off, building the advantage to 22 with the JT conversion.
With the win secured, Matt Scott came agonisingly close with six to go, just losing control at the wrong time, according to the on and off-field officials, as his record-breaking fourth try for the year loomed.
Coach Paul Green was able to take JT off shortly after and the Cowboys defence celebrated keeping Melbourne scoreless after leaking 42 points against Canberra six days earlier.
NQ ended the night completing 39 of 48 sets (81%), compared to Melbourne’s 25 from 32 (78%).
COWBOYS: 1 Michael Morgan, 2 Matthew Wright, 3 Brent Tate, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Johnathan Thurston (c), 7 Ray Thompson, 8 Matt Scott (c), 9 Rory Kostjasyn, 10 James Tamou, 11 Ethan Lowe, 12 Jason Taumalolo, 13 Scott Bolton. Interchange: 14 Robert Lui, 15 Glenn Hall, 16 Ashton Sims, 19 John Asiata.
STORM: 22 Cameron Munster, 2 Sisa Waqa, 3 William Chambers, 4 Kurt Mann, 5 Young Tonumaipea, 6 Ben Roberts, 9 Cameron Smith (c), 8 Jesse Bromwich, 13 Ryan Hinchcliffe, 10 Bryan Norrie, 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Ryan Hoffman, 15 Tohu Harris. Interchange: 14 Kenny Bromwich, 17 George Rose, 18 Mitch Garbutt, 20 Junior Moors.
COWBOYS 22: Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Johnathan Thurston, Michael Morgan tries; Johnathan Thurston 4 goals