North Queensland favourite Ray Thompson bagged a double in his 100th NRL game as his Cowboys walked away with a convincing 46-16 demolition of Newcastle on Saturday evening.
Celebrating his milestone in front of a healthy 1300SMILES Stadium crowd, Thompson slotted into the five-eighth spot vacated by Michael Morgan seamlessly, with the Queensland utility leaving Wednesday's State of Origin early with concussion.
With all the confidence in the world, Thompson scythed through a huge gap on the right on the inside of youngster Jack Cogger, then backed it up with a solid line run off a copybook John Asiata short ball.
The 26-year-old wasn't the only hero for the home side, with all starting middle men (Matt Scott, James Tamou and Jason Taumalolo) hitting the century mark for run metres in their first stints.
Scott ran like a man possessed with 15 hit-ups for 152 metres, while Johnathan Thurston pulled the strings as North Queensland constantly shifted Newcastle from side to side.
Newcastle's 18-year-old Jack Cogger was a late inclusion for Jaelen Feeney at five-eighth and put forward a manful effort.
Both sides appeared to feel their way into the contest over the first 10 minutes before the Cowboys attacked a Sione Mata'utia knock on, scoring on the left through Antonio Wintersein as Mata'utia was still recovering to his edge.
At 6-0 the Cowboys were in cruise control. They were playing simple, direct football and making metres on the edges at will.
Out of nowhere Knights excitement machine Nathan Ross straightened his line to beat Justin O'Neill, draw Lachlan Coote and put Corey Denniss away down the left. But at 6-all, Cogger failed to grab Kyle Feldt's tricky restart which pinged right over the dead-ball line.
Thompson got his first on the ensuing dropout to get the lead back for his team, and the home side never looked back from there.
Gavin Cooper went short out of dummy half to run 15 metres and score soon after, before Thompson crossed for his second.
Leading 24-6 coming out of half-time Asiata showed great skill, dummying and beating four to thread a perfect inside ball to Granville who scored under the sticks.
Cowboys fans went silent as Coote lay on the ground, attended to by the trainer, but just seconds later he was cutting out two men to find Kyle Feldt trotting in for his first of two on the night. That's the sort of game it was for the Cowboys.
Thompson was tempted to reach out for his third but Kostjasyn made the most of his five-eighth's good work with a dive-over try out of dummy-half, and while Newcaslte scored twice late – through slick tries to Jake Mamo and Lachlan Fitzgibbon off a Hodkinson grubber in the final minute – it was all Cowboys, all night.
North Queensland face Cronulla at Southern Cross Group Stadium next Monday, while Newcastle are at home to the Warriors next Saturday afternoon.
North Queensland Cowboys 46 (Ray Thompson, Kyle Feldt 2, Antonio Winterstein, Gavin Cooper, Jake Granville, Rory Kostjasyn tries; Johnathan Thurston 7 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 16 (Cory Denniss, Jake Mamo, Lachlan Fitzgibbon tries; Trent Hodkinson 2 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Half-time: Cowboys 24-6. Crowd: 14,651. Holden Cup: Cowboys 66-16.