David Barbeler, AAP
Canberra captain Terry Campese says a big weight has been lifted off his side's shoulders after their seven-try 42-12 NRL romp over North Queensland.
A first-half double to outstanding centre Jack Wighton helped snap the Raiders' miserable three-match losing streak in perfect Sunday afternoon conditions at Canberra Stadium.
"It's been a couple of tough weeks. It's a big weight off our shoulders," Campese said.
The Cowboys lacked go-forward and looked rudderless with Johnathan Thurston and company away on Origin duties to end a run of three straight victories.
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"It was just errors at the wrong time, that's not Cowboys 2014 football," Cowboys captain Ashton Sims said.
"We're not using any excuses; injuries, Origin, nothing. We didn't get it done today."
Young Raiders playmaker Mitch Cornish was given his long-awaited NRL debut with 15 minutes to go, showing great promise with a willingness to run the ball and setting up Anthony Milford for the Raiders' final try.
His run-on moment attracted the biggest cheer of the game from the 8,412 strong crowd.
"It was pretty awesome. I tried not to smile, to stay composed but it was pretty hard to keep it in," Cornish said.
The Raiders found success attacking down the right-hand side through a superb Josh McCrone and Wighton, constantly peppering the channel of Cowboys playmaker Robert Lui.
Yet it took them a while to wind up, missing several golden opportunities in the opening stanza due to sloppy handling errors.
It gifted the Cowboys opportunities of their own, and they made the Raiders pay with an opening converted try to backrower Ethan Lowe.
Wighton levelled the scoreboard for the Raiders in the 24th minute before young Raiders forward Paul Vaughan carried two defenders over the tryline for a 12-6 lead.
Tariq Sims was placed on report for a dangerous tackle in the shadows of half-time and man-of-the-match Jarrod Croker slotted the ensuing penalty.
With the Raiders completing their sets more consistently, the Cowboys began tiring, and Wighton crossed for his second try as the half-time siren sounded to give the Raiders an 18-6 lead.
The Cowboys hit back through winger Curtis Rona, yet the comeback would be short-lived, the Raiders finishing with four unanswered tries to Jarrad Kennedy, Reece Robinson, Croker and Milford.
Raiders skipper Campese also made a statement against his critics in the second-half blitz, cracking open the Cowboys defence to put Kennedy over, as well as putting up a towering bomb for Croker's try.
"The criticism the captain has copped has been quite frequent and some of it deserved," coach Ricky Stuart said.
"Campo showed everyone today, when he performs that way, that the team is right behind him and we do well."
Canberra Raiders 42 (Wighton 2, Vaughan, Kennedy, Robinson, Croker, Milford tries; Croker 7 goals) defeated North Queensland Cowboys 12 (Lowe, Rona tries; Lowe 2 goals) at GIO Stadium. Crowd: 8412.