The Cowboys have overcome the absence of four stars on Origin duty to down the Titans 32-6 at Cbus Super Stadium on Thursday night.
Such is the Cowboys' composure in 2022 that the loss of Val Holmes, Reuben Cotter, Jeremiah Nanai and Tom Dearden was not enough to halt their momentum, racking up a ninth win of the season on the back of standout performances from Jason Taumalolo, Scott Drinkwater and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
The Cowboys didn't have it all their own way early, the home side forcing two line dropouts courtesy of astute kicks by Toby Sexton and Brian Kelly, but Todd Payten's men held firm.
The sides then traded sets before a mistake by Taumalolo in the 14th minute handed the Titans an opportunity and some slick hands close to the line saw Sexton cross for his first try of the season.
Titans halves combine to open the scoring
Come the 28th minute the Cowboys hit back when Drinkwater found Heilum Luki and the young back-rower powered over from 10 metres out to score. Drinkwater's conversion made it 6-6.
Three minutes later Maroons squad member Murray Taulagi continued his superb season when he steamrolled Jayden Campbell to score in the corner after crisp passing from Taumalolo, Ben Hampton and Drinkwater.
Taulagi was in the action again soon after when a strong hit on Jamayne Isaako forced the ball free and Tabuai-Fidow pounced to make it three tries in eight minutes for the Cowboys.
Titans can't touch the Hammer
Trailing by 10 at the break the Titans needed to be first to score and bench hooker Tanah Boyd came agonisingly close in the 50th minute when he was held up just short of the line by Jordan McLean.
A great run by Erin Clark gave the Titans another chance with 22 minutes to play but a dropped ball so the chance go begging.
Clark's opposite number Reece Robson then capped a fine night with a try in the 68th minute as the Cowboys put the game beyond reach.
Tabuai-Fidow gets his second
A barnstorming run by Taumalolo laid the platform the Cowboys fifth try, the skipper skittling defenders before finding Drinkwater who grubbered for Tabuai-Fidow to complete the first double of his career.
Veteran rake Jake Granville got out of dummy half in the 77th minute and turned the ball inside for Peta Hiku to grab another try for the Cowboys as the scoreline blew right out.
Among many stars for the Cowboys, fullback Scott Drinkwater was a standout with 223 running metres, three try assists and three line break assists.
The Cowboys go bang bang
- Jason Taumalolo was a powerhouse on his return from injury for the Cowboys, running for 207 metres from 24 hit-ups.
- Jayden Campbell and AJ Brimson had 12 tackle breaks between them in the opening 60 minutes before Campbell was forced from the field with a hamstring injury.
- Titans halfback Toby Sexton leads the NRL for forced dropouts this season with 19, well clear of Daly Cherry-Evans in second spot with 13.
Match: Titans v Cowboys
Round 13 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
- The Cowboys have conceded just 42 second-half points all season.
- Cowboys prop Jordan McLean left the field for a HIA in the 22nd minute. He passed and returned to the field in the 37th minute.
- Reece Robson scored a try, racked up 40 tackles and ran for 111 metres in another wholehearted display for North Queensland.
- The Titans have conceded 152 points in their past four games.
Play of the Game
Young back-rowers Heilum Luki and Jeremiah Nanai have been a revelation for the Cowboys in 2022, scoring tries, busting tackles and making a huge impression. With Nanai on Maroons Origin duty it was left to Luki to step up and he answered the call with his fourth try of the year, storming onto a Scott Drinkwater pass in the 28th minute and carrying several defenders across the line with him. Luki's try kick-started the Cowboys after a sluggish start and there's plenty more where that came from for the towering 21-year-old.
Barnstorming Luki can't be stopped
What They Said
"I thought Tommy Gilbert was awesome tonight. Those guys [Gilbert and Heilum Luki] are surely going to be included in the conversation around Origin whether it's the rest of this series or potentially in the future. I think that was only Heilum's third start in his career and he played really strong, scored a try, really threatened them, defended well." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten
Cowboys: Round 13
"We just have to keep getting on with it. Stretch those periods that we're playing well for longer periods and we can't have the bad periods, that's what we're doing at the moment and we've been doing it for a long time and that's what's killing us. It's not so much about getting players back [Fifita and Fa'asuamaleaui] it's just about competing harder... now we've lost JC [Jayden Campbell] so we've got some work to do. The minute he went off the field we didn't look a real threat in attack so it's a worry." - Titans coach Justin Holbrook
Titans: Round 13
The Titans have an eight-day break before hosting the Rabbitohs in round 14. Phil Sami is a chance to return from a knee injury and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui will look to back up from Origin One but fullback Jayden Campbell looks to be in doubt after leaving the field with a hamstring injury.
The Cowboys head home to Townsville to face the Dragons two days after the Origin series opener. Val Holmes, Jeremiah Nanai, Reuben Cotter and Tom Dearden will all step out for Queensland on Wednesday so coach Todd Payten will watch with interest to see how they come through. The last time the sides met was round 24 last year when the Cowboys saluted 38-26 in Rockhampton