Reigning champions North Queensland have come out firing in the 2015 Auckland Nines, thumping Melbourne 17-8 in their opening pool match.
The defending premiers got off to the perfect start, scoring barely a minute in against an inexperienced Storm outfit when Matt Wright latched onto a cross-field kick. The winger converted his own try from the touchline.
Michael Morgan then passed inside to put Ethan Lowe over in the bonus zone to round out a clinical first half from the Cowboys, but a fumble from Justin O'Neill allowed Kurt Mann to get the Storm on the board after the resumption.
The Cowboys edged away via a second try to Wright after the Storm had been reduced to eight men with Hampton sent to a two-minute sinbin, before a late try to Storm prop Hymel Hunt made it a 17-8 final score.
North Queensland fullback Michael Morgan said it was a much improved start for the Cowboys this year, having lost to Manly first up in 2014, and put the result down to a strong defensive game.
"For the first game, yeah I was impressed with our defence. It was something we spoke about it. It's what got us home last year so we'll keep working hard on that," he said.
Morgan also heaped praise on powerhouse forward Jason Taumalolo.
"He's a freak, isn't he? He's got size, speed and footwork through the middle. It's ridiculous," he said.
"It's a lot better having him on the team than against him, that's for sure."