Wearing their special Thor superhero jerseys, the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys overpowered the Gold Coast Titans in front of almost 15,000 members and supporters to claim a third-straight NRL victory at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight.
The Cowboys scored five tries to one in a 28-8 win that consolidates their place in the top eight with five rounds of the season remaining.
Back-rower Gavin Cooper made his comeback from injury after a three-month absence and scored a try in his 100th game as a Cowboy.
The Cowboys regained Matt Scott (cheekbone) and Gavin Cooper (dislocated hip) but were without James Tamou, who was still struggling with the neck problem exacerbated during the match against Canterbury a week earlier. John Asiata dropped out of the squad of 18 named on Tuesday. For the Titans, Brad Tighe replaced Anthony Don on the wing and Luke Bailey returned from a hamstring injury.
The Cowboys repelled three straight sets from the Titans on their line before almost producing the first points via Jason Taumalolo on the 12-minute mark.
After a 50-metre break instigated by Johnathan Thurston and Robert Lui, the young second-rower fought his way across the try line but was ruled to be held up by the video referees after an initial call of “try” came from on-field referee Gavin Badger.
Two tackles later and the chance for points was completely gone, Antonio Winterstein losing control as he tried to score in his eighth consecutive game.
There were other opportunities for the Cowboys that amounted to nothing, including Taumalolo again being held up, before the first points eventually came from Titans winger Kevin Gordon who kicked a 23rd minute penalty goal.
Enjoying a period of some dominance even though their attack looked clunky, giant Coast five-eighth Brad Takaraingi did it all himself to score the first try of the night with 12 to go in the first half.
He stepped back twice off his left foot and overpowered the NQ defence close to the line with Gordon’s conversion putting the visitors 8-0 up.
The Cowboys’ hit back came not long after – Michael Morgan touching down a JT grubber kick although it took almost a dozen views upstairs before the on-field try call was confirmed.
Four tackles after the restart and NQ were in again, Gavin Cooper running off a Thurston pass and rampaging 40 metres to the try line to score in his 100th NRL match for the Cowboys.
From 8-0 down, the Cowboys were 12-8 up and they threatened even more points before the break with both Kane Linnett and Robert Lui finding a way through the Titans before both attacking moves broke down.
The Cowboys’ first try of the second 40 came in unusual circumstances.
After Matt Scott had charged forward for good metres on the fifth tackle, the home team launched a high ball that was taken by Coast fullback David Mead just metres out from his own line.
However he was swamped by three NQ defenders, lost control of the ball as he was driven back and the always alert Thurston was on hand to pinch four points.
The video refs, after another long sequence of replays, overturned the no-try call from downstairs.
Try number four also came following a kick – Matthew Wright’s tap back found Michael Morgan who linked with Tautau Moga, with the winger diving in untouched from close range.
With 25 to go, the Cowboys were cruising with a 22-8 lead.
There was plenty of niggle as the night went on with Ashton Sims clashing with Paul Carter and Antonio Winterstein with Cody Nelson as tempers frayed.
After a trifecta of penalties for Titans offences, Kane Linnett put the Cowboys further in front with 12 left, taking the last pass from JT to slide over following an attacking raid to the left.
A JT penalty on full time took the winning margin to 20.
In his first game since Origin II, Matt Scott was outstanding with 176 metres with great support from Jason Taumalolo (152m).
Tariq Sims topped the tackle count with 31 as possession for the 80 minutes ended up being 56% to 44% the home team’s way.
Cowboys: 1 Michael Morgan, 2 Tautau Moga, 3 Matthew Wright, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6 Robert Lui, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matt Scott (c), 9 Rory Kostjasyn, 16 Ashton Sims, 11 Tariq Sims, 12 Jason Taumalolo, 13 Glenn Hall. Interchange: 14 Ray Thompson, 15 Scott Bolton, 18 Sam Hoare, 19 Gavin Cooper.
Titans: 1 Kevin Gordon, 20 Brad Tighe, 3 James Roberts, 4 Dave Taylor, 5 David Mead, 6 Brad Takairangi, 7 Daniel Mortimer, 8 Luke Douglas, 9 Beau Falloon, 10 Nate Myles, 11 Mark Minichiello, 12 Paul Carter, 13 Greg Bird. Interchange: 14 Matt White, 16 Cody Nelson, 17 Maurice Blair, 18 Luke Bailey.
Cowboys 28: Michael Morgan, Gavin Cooper, Johnathan Thurston, Tautau Moga, Kane Linnett tries; Johnathan Thurston 4 goals
Titans 8: Brad Takaraingi try; Kevin Gordon 2 goals