The Cowboys' superstars have spearheaded a two-way clinic to gain revenge over the Brisbane Broncos 27-14 in front of 21,340 fans in Townsville Friday night.
But that very excellence is likely the cause of worry for Cowboy fans entering the Origin period as it gives them a taste of what they will be missing in the coming weeks with the absence of their stars.
The home side received a major scare in the 25th minute when Johnathan Thurston left the field with concussion concerns, but he soon picked up where he left off – having hands in everything including the game-securing field goal which ricocheted fortuitously off the right goalpost.
After a lacklustre first half, the Broncos found some spark out of the sheds, winning the territory battle and finding life when Bent Hunt crossed for his first of two second-half tries.
With the Cowboys threatening close to the line late in the game JT threw an intercept straight to the hands of Brisbane centre Jack Reid who all but ran the length of the field before being chased down by Wright and Morgan. But the subsequent play had the Cowboys scrambling back, with Copley Hunt for his sixth try of the season.
Hunt bagged his double, hitting an Andrew McCullough ball at pace and zigzagging his way through three Cowboy defenders to reach out and plant the footy and the game was well and truly alive.
But it was Thurston in the mix again, setting up interchange Ethan Lowe running an inside line – with an ensuing field goal and a last minute runaway try to Kostjasyn making the result a formality.
The Cowboys' defensive mettle was on show in the opening minutes when a barnstorming Matt Gillett was stopped spectacularly over the line by a one-on-one tackle from fullback Michael Morgan.
And minutes later, it was the Cowboys peppering the visitors' line on the back of powerful Matt Scott running – the Test prop amassing 151 metres by the half.
Thurston's timing was on point following concerns he was out of position at five-eighth, working the inside ball and all but scoring on two separate occasions before a third inside ball found Scott who rumbled over an out of position to crash over.
The pressure kept coming and was too much for Brisbane, giving up their second score in the form of a professional penalty against Corey Parker.
After winger Daniel Vidot made a meal of a regulation high ball the Steeden found itself in the hands of Cowboys winger Curtis Rona. Noticing multiple left-side overlaps on the Cowboys counter-attack, the veteran Parker gave away a marker penalty against Brent Tate, Thurston subsequently taking the easy two points.
The Cowboys' domination continued off the restart when Thurston had his second line break assist, hitting Morgan running a good angle on the left side who showed some toe to set up centre Kane Linnet who crossed untouched on the inside.
But that's when North Queensland collectively held their breath. After being first to his own kick return, Thurston awkwardly met Dale Copley head first and subsequently left the field but would return with two minutes left in the half – much to the delight of the Townsville crowd.
The Broncos then found some spark, winning the territory battle and looking to salvage some respect from a treacherous first half, but it was stonewalling defence taking the Cowboys into the sheds with a 14-0 advantage.
North Queensland Cowboys 27 (Scott, Linnett, Lowe, Kostjasyn tries; Thurston 5 goals, field goal) def Brisbane Broncos 14 (Hunt 2, Copley tries; Parker 1 goal) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Half-time: Cowboys 14-0. Crowd: 21,340.
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