Johnathan Thurston scored two tries in the North Queensland Cowboys' 30-12 win over the South Sydney Rabbitohs, where a second-half blitz saw the victors score 26 unanswered points.
Five key points from Cowboys v Rabbitohs
Sutton, Walker close to returns
Morgan sees positives in halves switch
WATCH: North Queensland's slick team try
WATCH: Full match highlights
WATCH: Cowboys press conference
WATCH: Rabbitohs press conference
Match stats, scores, highlights
Making it three wins on the trot, coincidentally on their third consecutive Monday fixture, the Cowboys' recent good fortunes against the Rabbitohs continued – after making it four straight wins against the reigning premiers – in what truly was a game of two halves.
South Sydney's loss means the Broncos finish Round 6 as outright competition leaders, having won every game since their loss to the Rabbitohs in the season-opener.
Down 12-4 at half-time, the Cowboys were very unlucky not to cross in the final seven seconds of the first half when Michael Morgan was controversially ruled not to have scored due to a questionable obstruction from back-rower Ethan Lowe – despite looking like he had gone straight through the opposition defence without initially touch a defender.
However, North Queensland overcame their disappointment quick smart in the opening exchanges after the break when back-rower Gavin Cooper glided past Rabbitoh Chris Grevsmuhl before drawing in Inglis to send his co-captain Thurston away in the first 30 seconds of the half.
By the 48th minute the scores were level when Thurston kicked a penalty conversion from 30 metres out.
North Queensland coach Paul Green was ultimately pleased with the way his men responded in the second half.
"I'm really proud of the way we hung in there against a team who has a particularly strong forward pack and of the way we were able to get back into the game and then finished it off," Green said.
The Cowboys were at it again in the 55th minute when a slick backline movement was completed by winger Antonio Winterstein out wide. Thurston's conversion saw the Cowboys extend their first lead of the match to six.
Of concern for the Rabbitohs was the loss of lock Jason Clark, who went off midway through the second stanza appearing heavily concussed.
Yet the reigning premiers' concern didn't end there, in fact it became worse when Thurston crossed for his second try of the match in the 71st minute thanks to an easy line break from Morgan, who guided his halves partner past Inglis.
The Rabbitohs' woes were compounded when North Queensland hooker Jake Granville scooted out of dummy half and ran 70 metres downfield in the very next set. Dummying past Inglis on his way to the tryline with Coote in support, the hooker scored his first try as a Cowboy to seal the 30-12 win for his team.
It was a completely different story in the first half though and it took under two minutes for the Rabbitohs to get on the board via the unlikely source of prop David Tyrrell. Scoring his second try in consecutive weeks, Tyrrell crashed past Cowboys lock Jason Taumalolo to the right of the uprights for an early 6-0 lead.
It only took North Queensland to the eighth minute to respond when a pinpoint kick from Cowboys playmaker Thurston saw Justin O'Neill leap above opposite winger Alex Johnston to make it a 6-4 scoreline.
The Rabbitohs proved they were equally equipped to hit back themselves when Johnston scored out wide in the 20th minute. It came from an Issac Luke break, with the hooker picking up the scraps from a wayward Thurston pass and Lachlan Coote mistake. Despite Luke being chased down, captain Greg Inglis took control on the very next tackle with the fullback sending a cut-out pass out left for the young winger to score.
Inglis looked to have pushed his way over from dummy-half in the 37th minute, and after being initially called a try by referee Adam Devcich, the men upstairs decided the Rabbitohs captain had lost control of the ball once Morgan's foot was underneath his hand in what kick-started an eventual disappointing night for South Sydney.
North Queensland Cowboys 30 (Johnathan Thurston 2, Justin O'Neill, Jake Granville, Antonio Winterstein Tries; Johnathan Thurston 5 Goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 12 (Dave Tyrrell, Alex Johnston Tries; Issac Luke 2 Goals) Crowd: 13,866. Half-time: Rabbitohs 12-4. On Report: Ben Lowe (Rabbitohs).