Cowboys continue Rabbitohs' woes
Class is in session.
Cowboys linchpin Johnathan Thurston clicked back the odometer and took the Rabbitohs to Sunday School in a comprehensive 20-0 victory at Barlow Park in Cairns.
The 33-year-old treated the 14,923 Cairns fans with his trademark deft kicking game and unrivalled ball-playing, but almost unrecognisable was his willingness to take on Souths' defensive line.
Thurston had his most active running game in many years, clocking 18 runs for 133 metres.
But Thurston wasn't the only one taking matters into his own hands.
The 'Big Three' of Matt Scott, James Tamou and Jason Taumalolo combined for over 350 first-half run metres as the Cowboys scorched the 'home' side in an early onslaught that all but spelled the demise of South Sydney's season by half-time.
Up 18-0 after 40 minutes, the Cowboys simply were not going to surrender a big lead twice in two weeks.
North Queensland owned the first 40 minutes, with close to 70 per cent possession, a completion rate over 90 per cent and the kind of mid-field dominance that cannot be measured in just run metres alone.
North Queensland's forwards and outside backs alike seemed to poke their nose through the line on every second hit-up, while Thurston helped generate four goal-line dropouts in just the first half.
The 'away' side kicked off proceedings in prodigious form, earning a penalty goal in the very first set following a Bunnies error. It took over 10 minutes for the game's first try when Thurston went low out of dummy-half, and just five minutes later Matt Scott was the beneficiary of a late James Tamou offload to crash through – grazing the ball on the faintest part of the line before making a second movement – giving the Cowboys a three-possession lead.
The ball was simply camped down the Rabbitohs' end, with the Bunnies – now on a five game losing run – failing to capitalise on the few chances they had on the other end.
While they lost the offload count 12-9, the Cowboys seem to have added that string to their bow, letting it fly with regularity over their past two games despite an average of just six per game.
Such was their dominance, penalties read 6-0 until the Bunnies managed one 35 minutes in.
The 18-0 half-time margin would have been higher if not for a couple of errors close to the line from John Asiata and Javid Bowen, but when Kane Linnett's replacement crossed off a beautiful Thurston cut-out ball three minutes into the second half, the Rabbitohs – fatigued from such a high defensive workrate – were truly buried.
The game went scoreless for the remainder as neither team could exploit solid goal-line defence. A Ray Thompson intercept on his goal line in the dying minutes assured the premiers a shutout.
From the toasty climate of northern Queensland, they will now head to Canberra for Monday night football, while the Rabbitohs, almost beaten to a man, have a week off to bounce back.
North Queensland Cowboys 20 (Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Javid Bowen tries; Johnathan Thurston 4 goals) defeated South Sydney Rabbitohs 0 at Barlow Park. Half-time: Cowboys 14-0. Crowd: 14,923.