Warriors v Cowboys: Five key points
We look at the five key points to come out of North Queensland's huge 50-16 victory over the Warriors on Saturday night.
Injuries sour an otherwise great night for Cowboys
The result should have been a cause for celebration in North Queensland, given it keeps their hopes of a maiden minor premiership alive and sends out an ominous warning to their rivals ahead of the finals.
But injuries to key men James Tamou, who suffered a neck injury in a three-man tackle on 15 minutes, and Michael Morgan, who went down with an ankle sprain just before the half hour mark, took much of the joy away.
Given his history with serious neck injuries, Tamou was taken to hospital in Auckland as a precaution, but is expected to fly home with his teammates on Sunday.
Meanwhile Morgan will await scans on Sunday to determine how much time he will miss, with coach Paul Green not making any estimates post-game.
"Not going to know the full extent until tomorrow. Jimmy has probably re-aggravated that neck thing, how bad it is I don't know," Green said.
"But I think once you have been through that you get pretty cautious about it, so anytime you get a knock there you think the worst straight away.
"'Morgo' is a little bit the same, probably a high ankle sprain.
"We think [ankle syndesmosis] but again until you get the scans you don't fully know, but it's an ankle sprain."
Warriors left edge goes MIA
The Warriors' left side had a night to forget on Saturday, leaking five tries down their corridor to opposite numbers Kyle Feldt and Justin O'Neill.
Rookie winger Ken Maumalo in particular struggled to find his feet defensively, missing five tackles as the smaller Feldt powered through him on a number of occasions.
With Johnathan Thurston firing down that side of the field Green said the Cowboys were always going to target the area after they had some early success there.
"We had a bit of joy down there earlier in the game so we thought we would keep going back there," he said.
"It worked out well for us in the end.
"Their young fella [Mason Lino] was on debut so he had a few questions to answer there with Jono [Thurston] running at him with a few options."
In addition to his defensive issues Maumalo also knocked the ball on in front of his own posts just before half-time, a mistake which led to O'Neill crossing for his first try just before the break.
Lack of ball hurts Warriors
Even if the Kiwi side had managed to defend a whole lot better than they did at Mount Smart Stadium, they were always going to be up against it given the way North Queensland bossed possession.
The visitors finished up with 70 per cent of the ball, enjoying 10 more sets than the Warriors.
Hidden away in the scoreline somewhat was the fact the Cowboys took excellent care of the ball, competing 37 of their 40 sets (92 percent) while running for 1005 metres more than their opponents.
After the game Warriors coach Andrew McFadden said it had made a huge impact, particularly given what Thurston was able to do with the ball in hand.
"It's huge, when it's Johnathan Thurston who has got those 16 sets as well it's a big challenge," McFadden said.
"That sort of weight of possession for any team would tell, but against Thurston with our young side it was always going to be tough."
Slow starts worry Green
It all worked out fine in the end, with his side rallying to score an incredible 50 unanswered points, but coach Green was frustrated with the way his side started in Auckland.
Down 16-0 after 13 minutes, the Cowboys could have been in real trouble against a better side.
Some of that could be put down to their opponents, who came flying out of the gates only to fade quickly, but Green said it was an issue which could hurt his side comes finals time.
"Tonight the Warriors were really up at the start of the game, we just had to fight a little harder to go with them, and really work hard to not leak points in that period," he said.
"But we haven't been able to do that for some time. It's a concern for us, we need to address it, particularly with the bigger games ahead of us."
Coen kills it on debut
As far as NRL debuts go 19-year-old Mount Isa product Coen Hess will have nothing to complain about.
After playing more minutes than expected following the injury to Tamou early in the piece, Hess ran for 136 metres off 14 carries, clocking up a line break to boot.
But perhaps most pleasing on a personal note was the try he crashed over for on 57 minutes, capping a dream first outing.
"I thought it was a great night for 'Hessy', apart from one knock on I thought he did a really good job," Green said.
"He didn't look out of depth at all.
"Certainly against a big New Zealand team, physically he was well and truly in the contest.
"To get a try on debut made it probably little bit more special for him. He showed he was up to it and got the job done well for us."