The Cowboys made it three straight without Johnathan Thurston for the first time as errors prove too costly for a Rabbitohs side whose finals chances are slipping away.
Last time out it was Michael Morgan, but this week hooker Jake Granville was the man to stand up and guide the Cowboys to victory. The premiership-winning rake notched two try assists, a try of his own, 26 tackles and two line breaks. It's a silver lining to the injury problems the Cowboys have had in 2017 with the likes of Morgan, Granville and Lachlan Coote all raising their standard of football to carry North Queensland to victory at different times.
Cowboys still in the finals mix
It's still a logjam at the top of the table for the contenders of the top four, even more so after the Sharks lost to the Titans this weekend, with five teams from second position to sixth all sitting on 26 points. The NRL is a marathon, not a sprint, and it will be the teams who prove to be most consistent over the last seven rounds of competition that will find themselves with a second chance in the finals come September.
Souths' season slips away
South Sydney's performance was perhaps a reflection of their season as a whole. The Rabbitohs' set plays consistently failed, while the likes of Sam Burgess and Adam Reynolds put in below-average performances. Burgess made three errors while Reynolds' kicks either found the hands of the Cowboys' back three or the dead-ball line, gifting the Cowboys metres and failing to apply any pressure. The Rabbitohs' finals hopes are all but dashed at this point, and they'll need an epic turn-around in form if they are to make it into the eight.
Cowboys take their foot off the gas
At the start of the second half the Cowboys led 22-6 and looked like they would stack on 40 points, but as soon as Jake Granville went to the bench the team immediately began to struggle, both at close range and as they worked their way up the field. It's a 10-minute period in which North Queensland are vulnerable, and they need to tighten up that aspect of their game if they want to match it with the likes of the Melbourne Storm and the Sharks who they meet before the finals.
Rabbitohs' errors too costly
The Souths' completion rate of 66 per cent was too poor for them to be competitive on Sunday, throwing away numerous opportunities while the Cowboys' defence shut down all but two of the rest. They'll need to return to basic football to fix those problems, and this late in the season the team from Redfern is short on time to be fixing such a basic aspect of their game.