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North Queensland Cowboys 42 def Wests Tigers 14

THEY endured their season from hell in 2008 and hit another speed bump in Round 1 but it was only a matter of time before North Queensland turned on that old magic again.

Buoyed by a typically brilliant performance from fullback Matt Bowen, who missed much of last season with injury, the Cowboys blew Wests Tigers off the park to record their first win of the season 42-14 and announce themselves as a team to watch.

While the Wests Tigers alternated between poor and downright embarrassing, North Queensland made life even more difficult for them as their big guns came out to play on a hot and steamy night at Dairy Farmers Stadium.

The signs were ominous early when first Antonio Kaufusi, then Carl Webb crashed over for soft tries and a 12-4 lead before Bowen stepped his way over to set the crowd alight.

The visitors were gifted a try from an intercept right on half-time to give themselves a sniff but yet another easy try to Cowboys’ five-eighth Travis Burns in the 43rd minute typified the Wests Tigers’ night.

From there it was a walk in the park for North Queensland.

Despite an impressive solo effort from Tigers fullback Tim Moltzen, the home side scored three more tries late in the game to secure an easy win.

The Game Swung When… Carl Webb crashed over in the 17th minute.

The Tigers had scored a try against the run of play just a few minutes earlier to get themselves back into the game and had looked far better for the confidence-booster, but the ease of Webb’s four-pointer set the tone for the rest of the game.

Hooker Aaron Payne ran from dummy-half and was surprised to see Webb standing one-on-one with the Tigers’ back-rower Gareth Ellis – the English import never a hope of holding the Queenslander out from a metre out.

Webb’s try extended the lead to 12-4 and the Cowboys were never threatened again.

Who Was Hot… It was a night for the Cowboys’ big guns, with Johnathan Thurston, Matt Bowen and Luke O’Donnell all impressing on home soil.

O’Donnell proved a constant thorn in the Tigers’ side while Bowen’s fleet-footed stepping and speed off the mark proved irresistible.

Hooker Aaron Payne was also heavily involved and scored a brilliant try when he pinched a kick out of the air with three Tigers converging.

Who Was Not… With the exception of some flashes of brilliance from Benji Marshall, the Tigers looked a shambles for much of the game and didn’t seem too interested in the two points.

In fact, it was a horrible night for winger Beau Ryan who refused to put his body on the line when it mattered most, while Gareth Ellis tried hard but made a series of errors. Too hot for the pom? Maybe.

In summary, handling errors were the Tigers’ greatest enemy.

Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… The Tigers were the recipients of a bizarre piece of Johnathan Thurston charity shortly before the half-time break. Thurston was shaping to pass when the ball inexplicably popped out of his hands without a hand being laid on him and straight into the grateful arms of Tigers hooker Robbie Farah. Farah took off downfield before putting in a kick for John Morris to score and give the Tigers an outside chance at 18-8 down.

Injuries… Nil.

Refs Watch: It was a quiet night out for referees Jason Robinson and Phil Haines, which is always a good sign. Best & Fairest… 3 points – Aaron Payne (Cowboys): Scored a try, set up two more and was heavily involved in most of the Cowboys’ attacking raids; 2 points – Shane Tronc (Cowboys): Impressive up front with 134 metres to his name; 1 point – Matt Bowen (Cowboys): Caused headaches for the Tigers and showed why he is such a crucial cog in the Cowboys’ attacking arsenal.

Cowboys 42 (A Kaufusi, C Webb, M Bowen, T Burns, A Payne, J Williams, T Williams tries; J Thurston 7 goals) def Wests Tigers 14 (T Tuiaki, J Morris, T Moltzen tries; B Marshall goal) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Crowd: 19,879.

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