NORTH Queensland’s season kicked into top gear on Saturday night as they proceeded to tear the hapless Rabbitohs apart and move to within one point of the top four.
While South Sydney’s premiership hopes hang by a thread, the Cowboys’ 46-12 win was their fourth in a row and certainly their most impressive after losing four of their first five games to start the season.
It was all one-way traffic from the opening whistle, the home side leading 16-0 before Souths finally posted their first points.
Typically it was halfback Johnathan Thurston orchestrating much of the attack, setting up the first two tries to John Williams and Ashley Graham wide to the right before Aaron Payne darted over from dummy-half for the third.
The Rabbitohs hinted at a comeback when Beau Champion scooted over from 10 metres out but when Scott Bolton barged onto a short-ball to crash over seven minutes from the break the game was all but over.
Still, the Cowboys weren’t done yet and their attack hit over-drive in the second half with stunning tries to Matt Bowen and Ty Williams sending the crowd wild.
Bowen took advantage of another moment of madness in the South Sydney defensive line as he stepped past a rushing Chris Sandow and then darted over to score untouched in the 55th-minute.
Just four minutes later Williams received the ball on the left touchline and appeared to have run out of room, but he miraculously managed to put in a short grubber before his foot hit the touchline, then plucked the ball out of thin air with two defenders converging to race around and score.
Graham, John Williams and Matthew Scott also crossed while Craig Wing was the only standout for the visitors, racing 60 metres midway through the half to come within five metres of scoring, then finishing the job late in the game with a clever solo effort.
The loss sees Souths drop down to ninth spot with a tough trip to Wollongong awaiting them next week.
The Game Swung When… The players ran onto the field.
It took less than five minutes for North Queensland to score their opening try and they were ahead 16-0 within 20, in their most dominant display of the season.
Only when Beau Champion made it 16-6 after 25 minutes did a comeback win look remotely possible but the home side scored again before the break and quickly put the result to bed in the second half.
Who Was Hot… The Cowboys’ front-row pairing of Matthew Scott and Shane Tronc laid the platform for their side, both running for well over 100 metres (and more than 200 in Scott’s case.
Thurston was also at his scheming best while the right-side combination of John Williams and Ashley Graham caused plenty of problems with four tries between them.
Who Was Not… The Rabbitohs simply weren’t up to the task and the ease of some North Queensland tries will be of concern to coach Jason Taylor; but it was the ineffectiveness of their forwards that really let them down.
While lock Craig Wing was outstanding, not one other player came close to topping 100 metres for the game with Roy Asotasi making just 37, Scott Geddes 35, Luke Stuart 35, Michael Crocker 52 and David Kidwell 42.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Ty Williams’ brilliant second half try was a sight to behold. Seemingly about to be bundled into touch, he put in a grubber that bounced perfectly for the converging defence but was remarkably plucked out of their grasp as Williams flew through to score.
Refs Watch… Referees Shayne Hayne and Gerard Sutton were barely sighted throughout the 80 minutes which is surely the goal of any NRL ref. A solid performance.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Matthew Scott (Cowboys): Had the Rabbitohs back-pedalling all game as he ran for a game-high 205 metres from 21 runs; 2 points – Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys): Orchestrated the attack throughout, laying on four tries including the opening two within the first 12 minutes; 1 point – Shane Tronc (Cowboys): Assisted Matthew Scott well up front and gave his side great momentum with 169 metres gained.
Cowboys 46 (J Williams 2, A Graham 2, A Payne, S Bolton, M Bowen, T Williams, M Scott tries; J Thurston 5 goals) def Rabbitohs 12 (B Champion, C Wing tries; C Sandow 2 goals) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Crowd: 16,568.