North Queensland won’t have forgotten the pain they felt when Manly eliminated them in week one of the 2011 finals series with a stunning 42-8 thrashing at the Sydney Football Stadium.
A clash that looked set to go right down to the wire when the Cowboys took an 8-0 lead into the half-time break instead turned out to be the visitors’ nightmare as they leaked seven second-half tries to crash out of the premiership race.
And it was Johnathan Thurston who went from hero to villain either side of half-time. Thurston looked set to lead his side to a huge upset win when he put Willie Tonga over in the 28th minute, but a mistimed inside ball early in the second half set Manly on their way with William Hopoate pushing over wide on the right to kick-start Manly’s surge.
Incredibly, it wasn’t until the 56th minute that Manly took the lead for the first time when Kieran Foran threw a stunning pass for Brett Stewart to cross but from there the floodgates opened. Anthony Watmough made it 18-8 when he capitalised on a fortunate bounce to score untouched in the 63rd minute while Stewart, Jamie Buhrer, Hopoate and Matt Ballin all added four-pointers inside a hectic final 10 minutes.
The Cowboys missed a whopping 52 tackles and made just 1232 metres to Manly’s 1541.
Brett Stewart was a standout for the eventual premiers with two tries, four tackle-breaks and 174 metres while Jamie Lyon produced a game-high 11 tackle-breaks.