The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have shut out the Bunnies at South Sydney’s 'home' ground with a 20-0 win at Barlow Park in Cairns.
With champion halfback Johnathan Thurston pulling the strings and as heavily involved as he’s been all year, the Cowboys notched up consecutive wins during this tricky representative period, thanks to disciplined footy and desperate defence.
Both co-captains scored tries, with Matt Scott and Thurston saluting in the first half before late call-up Javid Bowen overcame a first-half injury to score in the corner early in the second half.
It was the Cowboys’ 11th win of their premiership defence and coach Paul Green would have been pleased with the opposition's 0 scoreline despite the team not always clicking in attack.
This afternoon’s match was officially a Souths home game, but there was no mistaking where people were – smack bang in the middle of Cowboys country as a packed Barlow Park cheered on their region's team at every turn.
Having hosted NRL games in years past, the Cairns faithful seemed to revel in the Cowboys’ appearance at the picturesque venue, and a raucous suburban ground atmosphere punctuated a breezy Far North Queensland afternoon.
It took just two minutes for the general buzz to turn into a roar as an early penalty conceded by Souths was turned into two points by NQ maestro Thurston.
The 'visitors' continued to dominate possession in the opening 20 minutes, and had up to 73% of the ball, finally cracking Souths defence in the 11th minute when Thurston threw a huge dummy one way, went the other and darted over, the 33-year-old halfback running the ball more than at any time this year.
He would convert his own try and an 8-0 lead lurked ominously for the 13th-placed Rabbitohs.
OVER TO YOU, SKIPPER
Thurston’s co-captain Matt Scott showed his own nose for the stripe seven minutes later with a typically bruising charge to fall over the line, the no-nonsense prop scoring his second try of 2016 courtesy of a bunker overrule of an on-field 'no-try'.
It was 14-0 in nearly as many minutes as the Cowboys completed at near 90% and the Rabbitohs were on the wrong end of a 7-2 first-half penalty count.
LIGHTNING START TO SECOND
After giving up three quick second-half tries to Manly last-start, the Cowboys were on alert for any opposition resurgence in the back half of the game.
If you’re scoring tries, you don’t have to stop them and late recruit into the side Javid Bowen slid over in the 43rd minute to stretch the margin to 18-0.
It was the Cowboys turn to dig deep and in the space of five minutes, the Bunnies crossed the stripe twice, only to have both pleas for points turned down by the video referee.
The win has the Cowboys on 24 points and outright third on the NRL ladder heading into a round 18 clash in Canberra against the Raiders without their State of Origin contingent.
NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 20 (Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Javid Bowen tries; Thurston 2 goals, 2 pen. goals) def SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS 0 at Barlow Park, Cairns. Crowd: 14,923.