There was no shortage of ticker shown by the Cowboys on Monday night as they came back to knock off the visiting Storm 18-17 in golden point. Melbourne took a 12-point lead into the sheds, but failed to shut the gate on a rampaging North Queensland, scoring just the solitary point in the second 40 minutes. Here are five key points from this epic clash.
Johnathan Thurston showed why he is one of the greatest
Greg who? Thurston had something to say about the talk of South Sydney's Greg Inglis being the game's most dominating player. JT made clutch play after clutch play on Monday night. A sideline conversion on the wrong side for his natural arc, a field goal to force extra time then another one for good measure has the Cowboys skipper the talk of the NRL once more. Thurston bounced back in a big way with by far his best game of the season. His leadership and direction in attack on the back of his forwards was the reason North Queensland walked away with their first win of the season.
"I thought we saw the real Johnathan Thurston there tonight," coach Paul Green said after the game.
"It shows the composure of Johnno; third tackle it felt right so he took the shot and he iced it. That's why he's the player he is and I was so happy for him, he cares so much, not only about the team but about the club.
"We've been struggling for form in recent weeks and he's the sort of guy who takes a lot more on than most people. He backs his skill, there's no doubt about that."
Jesse Bromwich can do a bit of everything
He has proven to be one of the very top power players in the competition, and Monday night was no exception with the elder Bromwich brother running for 193 metres and making 42 tackles. But the Melbourne bookend has shown he can also finesse his way to results, exhibiting great touch for a big man with a beautifully timed cut-out pass to Kurt Mann for the game's first points. With the triple threat of Cronk's running/passing/kicking game combined with Bromwich's skill set and strong edge runners Tohu Harris and Kurt Mann, the Storm can find lots of avenues for points down the left side. Throw in the blistering pace and finishing ability of Marika Koroibete on the left wing and anything is possible.
Jason Taumalolo is elite
If you needed more proof, look no further than Monday night. 'JT3' still hides away from the action at times, but when he is engaged there simply isn't a more destructive runner of the football in the NRL. There have been question marks over his stamina in the past, but the 113-kilogram packhorse refused to tire in the second half, demanding carry after carry and bumping off players like they were nine pins (just ask Cam Smith) on his way to 244 running metres for the game.
After the game star prop Matt Scott had nothing but positive things to say about the 21-year-old.
"He's pretty hard to handle. It's great to have him in the side and playing like that. I think him and Jimmy in particular had great games for us," Scott said.
"We were really strong through the middle."
Thurston was also gushing post-game: "so big, so strong and we needed him to stand up in the last 20 minutes and he did, and it's what we expect from him every week."
There's something about Monday nights in Townsville
What is it with Monday nights in Townsville and golden point thrillers? The last two Monday nights in North Queensland have had viewers on the edge of their seats for the full 80 minutes and more, with both going into golden point and both requiring not one but two Thurston field goals to seal the deal. In Round 25 last year the red-hot Cowboys came in as unbackable favourites and they almost 'lost the unlosable' against a Cronulla side with enough omissions to fill another run-on side. The Cowboys ran out winners in that one, 20-19.
While there were no Daniel Holdsworth 40-metre drop goals on Monday, the pressure was just as intense with missed field goals in the extra period by both Thurston (who inexplicably attempted it left-footed) and Cooper Cronk, who sprayed his 30-metre attempt to the right. Footy fans, mark your calendars for the next Monday night fixture in Townsville – July 27 vs the Parramatta Eels!
Marika Koroibete is quietly becoming a top-line winger
In a game where Cronk and Smith's kicking radar was off and the right-side attack was largely non-existent, left winger Marika Koroibete continued to do his thing with 14 dynamic carries and one really special 95-metre solo effort. The 22-year-old Fijian is impressing both fans and teammates week-in, week-out with his blistering pace and kamikaze strength, and has no doubt brought up the old chestnut of 'fastest man in league' around the water cooler this week. Brought in as a replacement for Sisa Waqa, Koroibete has more than met expectations since arriving in Melbourne and looks the goods to hold down the coveted Melbourne no.5 jersey for a long time to come.