Steven Ross, North Queensland Correspondent, NRL.com
The merciless North Queensland Cowboys have made history and put the Wests Tigers to the sword, racking up a 64-6 annihilation in front of 12,317 fans at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.
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It is the biggest win in the almost 20 year history of the Cowboys, beating the previous record, a 60-8 win over the Rabbitohs in 2003.
Winding up toward September, the Cowboys never let the foot off the pedal. While the Tigers managed just the one try, North Queensland did not go ten minutes without a score all night.
It was effectively over when the home side held a 32-0 buffer just half an hour in, but the flame didn’t flicker during the 15-minute break in the sheds.
The already under-fire visitors were met with a blaze coming out of the sheds – the first bit of pain self-inflicted.
In a regulation hit-up, James Gavet’s boot found the tender area of an already hurting Robbie Farah, forcing play to stop momentarily, and if that didn’t have Potter enquiring about a mercy clause, the next play may have.
Fullback Michael Morgan threw a precise cut-out ball to Antonio Winterstein who beat two defenders to register his first of the night.
Thurston joined the party, channelling the first-half magic shown by halves partner Robert Lui to find Morgan with an inside ball for his first of the night, passing the 40 point mark in the 51st minute.
Just before the hour mark, Aaron Woods showed just why he was New South Wales’ leading prop this year, brushing off two Cowboys to dunk it home under the sticks for their first points of the night.
But the pain returned immediately when Curtis Sironen, playing in the halves, knocked on off the restart. That led to Moga’s first of the night off another perfect ball from Lui.
The restart was kicked out on the full and the Cowboys were in yet again, bringing up the half century when Lui fed big-bodied centre Kane Linnett on a straight run.
The points kept coming courtesy of Linnett, Taumalolo and Moga again, with scores finishing at 64-6.
Viewers needed all of a minute to see how this one was going to play out. Michael Morgan signified the start of proceedings with a 59-metre kick that had fullback Mitchell Moses in two minds and before he knew it, the ball was at his feet and bouncing dead.
Robert Lui forced the game’s second dropout on the ensuing possession, and that’s when the flood of points began.
Tryscoring machine Matthew Wright, playing outside of Tautau Moga in attack, just had to wait his turn after some hot-potato footy through the hands of Thurston and Lui created the overlap.
The direction of both teams' seasons was exemplified in just the seventh minute by fullback Mitchell Moses’ attempt at a right-side spread of their own when he threw a conventional pass straight over the sideline, giving the Cowboys more impetus to score points.
They didn’t on that possession, but the Tigers’ custodian gave them a second crack just three minutes later, delivering a less-than-accommodating ball to returning centre Chris Lawrence who put it down.
After clearing out the right side, Lui threw a long ball to Moga who turned a three-on-two disadvantage into an attacking opportunity, out-running a flatfooted edge defence to draw Wright for his second of the night.
It took just three further minutes for Wright to outleap 5’10” Kurtis Rowe and register his hat-trick off a deft Thurston chip. After two tough conversions were waved away, Thurston slotted the easier shot.
Then it was Lui’s turn. Channelling halves partner Thurston, the North Queensland playmaker engaged the Tigers’ line just enough before delaying a pass to a charging Michael Morgan straight through a hole, who then found Tariq Sims who fell over the line under the sticks.
Gavin Cooper saw his first action 25 minutes in, replacing Glenn Hall and moving straight to the left edge, shifting Taumalolo to the middle, which paid immediate dividends.
Taumalolo’s quick feet worked a trick immediately after his positional switch and he ran onto another perfectly timed short ball from Lui, who found the JT touch.
Wright would have had his fourth within half an hour if Tariq Sims had seen him wide open, but the next play the Cowboys switched through hands to the other side. Lui, Thurston and Linnet combining to find an untouched Winterstein for his first, bringing up the thirty in better than point-a-minute fashion.
Cowboys 64 (Wright 3, Taumalolo 2, Winterstein 2, Moga 2, Morgan, T. Sims tries; Thurston 8 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 6 (Woods try; Paterson goal) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Crowd: 12, 317