North Queensland secured back-to-back NRL Telstra Premiership wins, getting out of the blocks fast in Darwin against the Parramatta Eels. And there were no surprises as to which player sparked the Cowboys' impressive 32-6 victory.
Thurston's immediate impact
It only took North Queensland halfback Johnathan Thurston six minutes to remind everyone that he's the best player in the world, and show them that time on the sideline wouldn't have any impact. The Queensland half assisted Kyle Feldt's first two tries, before scoring his own in the second half. He finished the night by setting up Coen Hess, a combination many Queensland fans are hoping to see in State of Origin II. Thurston's game control was also on display, kicking for 318 metres and consistently forcing the Eels to start their sets from deep in their own end.
Kevin Walters cackles with glee
As Thurston expelled any concerns that he would need time to regain his game-defining form, Queensland coach Kevin Walters was licking his lips in the commentary box, laughing off Andrew Voss' comments about sizing Coen Hess up for a Queensland jersey. Hess earned himself a try and ran for 150 metres off the bench, as well as contributing 17 tackles, including a bone-rattling hit on Mitchell Moses that will have Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney sticking padding in their jerseys before State of Origin II if Hess is picked for his Origin debut.
Eels fail to fire
The Parramatta Eels looked flat despite having Corey Norman return to guide them around the field and contribute his running game. The Eels consistently tested the Cowboys' right edge, trying to get Semi Radradra around Kyle Feldt and Justin O'Neill, to no avail. Several times they lost the ball as they began to play catch-up football, only compounding their woes. Parramatta missed the mark on where they probed the Cowboys, and it cost them 26 points in for-and-against.
Discipline costs Eels, rewards Cowboys
The Eels penalised themselves out of the game, while the Cowboys rarely gave Parramatta any free ground, conceding just four penalties to the Eels' seven. It's an area the Cowboys have improved on in their previous three games, giving five penalties in their games against the Gold Coast Titans and the Cronulla Sharks. Poor discipline is becoming a worrying trend for the Eels, after they gave seven to the New Zealand Warriors in their gutsy win over them last week.
Cowboys split the ladder
Five teams are currently vying for positions in the top four, with the Dragons, Broncos, Sea Eagles, Roosters and Cowboys all sitting on 18 points, with only for-and-against leaving the Dragons and Broncos in the top four, while the Sea Eagles, Roosters and Cowboys are all snapping at their heels. The divide in the competition is between the Cowboys and the eighth placed Panthers, who are two wins behind the Cowboys, along with the Eels who are just outside the top eight, also on 14 points.