It’s three wins on the trot for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys after a 44-18 drubbing of South Sydney at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight.
The Cowboys are temporarily atop the NRL ladder after the eight-tries-to-three rout, with the team scoring 120 points and conceding just 18 in their past three home games.
EXPLODING OUT OF THE BLOCKS
Having earned a bit of a reputation as slow-starters last season, the Cowboys put that to bed in the fifth minute tonight when back-rower Gavin Cooper strolled over following some magical dummy-half work from Jake Granville.
Granville – starting for the first time since round 2 – turned the Rabbitohs’ defence inside-out and put Cooper away with a nifty inside ball.
The preceding two sets played out almost identically, with co-captain Johnathan Thurston forcing the opposition mistake from clever cross-field kicks.
Thurston duly converted, but all that brilliant early work was for nought as Souths hit back almost immediately through former Cowboys and North Queensland native Chris Grevsmuhl.
THAT MAN JT
Overshadowed by teammates Lachlan Coote, Jason Taumalolo and Ethan Lowe as best on ground in recent weeks, Thurston started this match on fire.
Not content with tormenting the Rabbitohs left side with pinpoint kicks, JT then turned magical creator for himself when, in the 15th minute he dummied and stepped a rushing defensive line, found clean space, grubbered through for five-eighth Michael Morgan, saw Morgan held back then pounced on the loose ball for a special solo try.
IN RARE FORM
Fullback Lachlan Coote produced one of the great defensive 1-2 punches this year midway through the first half.
Among the Cowboys’ best this year, Cootey effected a great one-on-one tackle on Luke Keary before hairing back 40m to force the ball dead when Souths put in a dangerous kick with their speed men bearing down.
Having suffering bruised ribs last week against the Panthers, the selfless chase was pure courage, something the diminutive No.1 has in spades.
Cowboys try-scoring machine Justin O’Neill scored his fifth try in seven games this season after trademark beautiful shape down the right side.
Celebrating his 100th NRL game against the Bunnies, O’Neill and wife Chantelle also announced this week that they’re expecting their first child.
FELDT LIKE VICTORY
It only took six minutes in the second half for the Cowboys to extend their lead as in-form winger Kyle Feldt crossed out wide for his fifth try of the season.
Feldt showed class with his finish off a brilliant Michael Morgan cutout pass.
Thurston would convert a difficult attempt, giving him 29 from 32 attempts this year.
With the Bunnies blowing hard and facing threats all over the paddock, the second half turned into a rout as Antonio Winterstein, Ethan Lowe and O’Neill – for his second – all crossed in quick succession.
A consolation try in the 69th minute to Rabbitohs hard man Sam Burgess added some respectability to the scoreboard but it was again the Cowboys’ night at home.
A sublime set-play from Thurston to Morgan for a try put the icing on the cake.
A late error from the Cowboys allowed Souths halfback Adam Reynolds to race away for a try and the final scoreline.
NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 44 (Justin O’Neill 2, Gavin Cooper, Johnathan Thurston, Kyle Feldt, Ethan Lowe, Antonio Winterstein, Michael Morgan tries; Thurston 6 goals) def SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 18 (Chris Grevsmuhl, Sam Burgess, Adam Reynolds tries; Reynolds 3 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Crowd: 15,487.