Depleted Storm no match for Cowboys

North Queensland did just enough Saturday night to dispose of a depleted Melbourne Storm outfit 22-0 in front of 12,392 fans at 1300SMILES Stadium.

The Storm came to Townsville in more ways than one Saturday, but both failed to deliver come game time, with neither side setting the world on fire in the slippery conditions.

The 22-point margin was not entirely indicative of the Cowboys' dominance, as they owned 20 per cent more possession and forced the visitors to make 121 more tackles.

Insult was added to injury for the Storm when winger Young Tonumaipea was put on report in the 34th minute for a crusher tackle on Brent Tate – drawing the obligatory gasps from the Cowboys faithful.

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Although the second half featured just the one try, it was well and truly worth the wait, with some off-the-cuff stuff from Johnathan Thurston to set up Michael Morgan under the posts.

Thurston dummied, stepped a tired Brian Norrie, grubbered through the line and grubbered again off the ground while on the run before Morgan finally touched down near the posts.

The match was predominantly played at one end of the field and if not for sloppy errors in the Cowboys attacking 20 metres the margin would have been closer to 40 points.

From the outset, North Queensland exploited the lack of Billy Slater at the back, feeding off the nerves of debutant Cameron Munster.

The young fullback almost handed the home side points just three minutes in after a monumental brain fade that saw his offload go straight into the hands of the home side for a try, but he was bailed out by a ‘held’ call by official Ashley Klein.

It would eventually take the Cowboys 20 minutes to post points but not for the want of trying.

After relentless go-forward the Cowboys set up consecutive set after consecutive set, but a lack of polish at the goal line meant their dominant first 15 minutes, in which they had 63 per cent of possession, counted for naught.

It took a freak aerial effort to finally crack the Storm’s solid defensive line, when a Thurston chip to the left corner looked to be a little too big. Yet it instead found the willing arm of short-statured winger Antonio Winterstein, who leapt high over the touchline to bat it back inside, right into the hands of an untouched Kane Linnett.

Thurston’s poor form with the boot from Wednesday’s Origin continued as his touchline effort hooked a little too much for his liking.

But if the home side were banking on that being the turning point they were sorely mistaken, after more simple errors in attacking twenty that would have had coach Paul Green’s hair thinning by the minute.

Munster’s tough half continued but he was again saved by the officials. In what looked a Cowboys try for all money after a knock-on in the ruck, the fullback found the Steeden with his boot to take it out of the juggling hands of Winterstein, forcing a double knock on and subsequent no-try.

The Storm were visibly gassed 10 minutes out from half-time, with no player occupying the outer thirds of the ground on attacking sets, and by then the Cowboys were ready to pounce.

For the first time, the home side executed a successful shift left with Linnett returning the favour to an untouched Winterstein on the outer edge.

Thurston finally found paydirt with the boot, swinging his kick in between the uprights for the first time in four attempts since Wednesday.

The Cowboys kept the motor running to manage another before the bell, with a copybook second man play going from halfback Ray Thompson, cutting out Jason Taumalolo to Thurston, who somehow burrowed under the Storm defence to cross in the corner.

North Queensland Cowboys 22 (Linnett, Winterstein, Thurston, Morgan tries; Thurston 3 goals) defeated Melbourne Storm 0 at 1300SMILES Stadium. Crowd: 12,392.