The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys can now look ahead to NYC finals football after defeating the twelfth-placed placed Titans 44-22 at 1300SMILES Stadium today.
The Cowboys will face the St George Illawarra Dragons in the first week of the finals.
The home side opened in their typical fashion, with hard running and quick play-the-balls, and saw the rewards immediately with a penalty off the first tackle and a try to Marcus Jensen off the resulting set.
They followed this up a few minutes later with a second, as lock Tahanui Tutavake crashed over at close range to bring the score to 10-0.
The Titans showed signs of life with their opening try, but an intercept to Gideon Gela-Mosby maintained the Cowboys’ buffer zone.
The Titans soon closed that, with consecutive tries bringing the scores to 16-all, as the Cowboys couldn’t keep up with the fast running of the Titans forwards.
It took some magic from Kalyn Ponga to get the Cowboys firing again, with a try under the posts from an offload.
Marcus Jensen took his second just before half time, securing the Cowboys a 10-point lead heading into the break, 26-16.
Jensen – recently signed to the Cowboys’ main NRL squad for two seasons from 2017 – finished the NYC regular season as the competition’s leading try-scorer with 24 four-pointers.
Any pace the Titans had in the first half seemed to evaporate in the second, as the Cowboys ran in three consecutive tries, including a double to Brandon Smith.
The Titans only managed to take one try from the second half, bringing the final score to 42-22.
The Cowboys’ week-one finals opponents, the Dragons, rounded out their regular season with a 26-16 win over the Knights, to finish on 35 points, two behind the Cowboys’ 37.
The Cowboys and Dragons last met in round 12, the game resulting in a 30-all draw.
The Panthers are clear competition leaders, heading into round 26 on 40 competition points.
NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 42 (Marcus Jensen 2, Brandon Smith 2, Tahanui Tutavake, Gideon Gela-Mosby, Kalyn Ponga, Cody Maughan tries; Kalyn Ponga 5 goals) def GOLD COAST TITANS 22 (John Olive, Sam Swift, Brayden McGrady, Ethan Roberts tries; Phillip Sami 2, Brayden McGrady goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium.