A city-wide blackout and an hour-long delay couldn’t dull the spirit of a pumped-up Barlow Park crowd as they turned out in droves for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys’ first trial of a new season.
But while the occasion was appreciated – once the lights came back on – the Cowboys will head into their second trial with plenty to think about as their more willing opponents Wests Tigers out-enthused and outplayed them for a 30-16 win on a steamy February night in Far North Queensland.
While all eyes were on returning Cowboys co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott – the veteran pair returning from long-term injuries – it was the Tigers who deserved the plaudits with an energetic display led by halves pairing Luke Brooks and new recruit Josh Reynolds.
Understandably rusty with ball in hand given the tough conditions and that it was the opening game of the year, the Cowboys did themselves no favours by giving away no less than five penalties while in possession.
The Sydney-siders held a 10-4 lead at half-time then strung through three consecutive tries in the second to put the game out of reach, with winger Corey Thompson bagging a double.
Late tries to youngster Jake Clifford and forward John Asiata pegged the lead back somewhat, but the Tigers scored late off an error to blow the score out again as heavy rain dominated the conversation in the last quarter.
On the up-side, Thurston (40 mins) and Scott (20 mins) got through their stints unscathed and will be better for the run as they prepare for next weekend’s Thurston-Cam Smith Testimonial game against the Melbourne Storm in Brisbane.
WESTS TIGERS 30 (Corey Thompson 2, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Taane Milne, Tyson Gamble, David Nofoaluma, tries; Tuimoala Lolohea 2, Taane Milne goals) def NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 16 (Coen Hess, Jake Clifford, John Asiata tries; Clifford 2 goals) at Barlow Park.