The Cowboys fine tuned their preparations for the opening round of the Telstra Premiership with a 26-6 defeat of the Broncos in Mackay on Saturday night.
North Queensland coach Todd Payten would have been pleased by what he saw as Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow starred at fullback, Valentine Holmes won his one-on-one centre dual with Kotoni Staggs and star recruit Chad Townsend controlled play at halfback.
Tom Dearden and Scott Drinkwater played half a game each at five-eighth and both were impressive, leaving Payten with a tough choice to determine who will partner Townsend against the Bulldogs in round one.
Riki crosses the line
The Broncos started well but lost their way midway through the first half and never got back into the game, with coach Kevin Walters needing to decide between Cory Paix and Jake Turpin at hooker and a halves partner for Adam Reynolds.
Albert Kelly was a late withdrawal from the trial after contracting COVID-19, giving Tyson Gamble and Billy Walters an opportunity to show their wares.
Prop Payne Haas carried the ball for 120 metres from 11 runs before being sin-binned just before halftime and he never returned as Walters wanted to keep him for the opening round clash with South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium.
Match: Cowboys v Broncos
Round 2 -
Venue: BB Print Stadium, Mackay
- Second-rower Jordan Riki gave the Broncos the best possible start when he swooped on a Tyson Gamble grubber to open the scoring in just the second minute of the match.
- However, momentum shifted in favour of the Cowboys when fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow capitalised on a broken Brisbane defensive line to grubber into space before using his speed to win the race for the ball and score in the 21st minute.
- Valentine Holmes gave a glimpse of the impact he could have at centre when he made an angled run towards the posts off a Tom Dearden pass to score untouched in the 27th minute.
Val Holmes streaks through
- Dearden appeared set to score just before halftime but was stopped by Payne Haas, who conceded a penalty for holding him down and was dispatched to the sin-bin.
- Holmes kicked a penalty goal to extend the Cowboys lead to 14-6 at halftime and they went on with the job in the second half.
- Chad Townsend forced a repeat set with a grubber kick into the Brisbane in-goal and North Queensland capitalised when winger Murray Taulagi crossed for his first try in the the 45th minute after quick hands by Scott Drinkwater and Holmes.
- Taulagi then scored his second try in the 59th minute after the Broncos declined to contest a Drinkwater kick and the ball bounced up perfectly for the Cowboys winger.
Taulagi extends the Cowboys lead
- Drinkwater staked a further claim to partner Townsend in the halves with a 40:20 kick later in the match but a knock-on by Coen Hass put paid to North Queensland's hopes of another try.
Play of the game
A piece of individual brilliance by Queensland Origin star Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow turned the game in favour of the Cowboys midway through the first half and the Broncos never recovered.
With a number of loose passes forcing the Cowboys to backpedal from the Broncos line, Tabuai-Fidow took advantage of a broken defensive line by kicking for himself and racing through to score the first of North Queensland's four tries.
Hammer time in North Queensland
What they said
"We had too many unforced errors but our defensive resolve, our intent and our line speed, I was pretty happy with that. We conceded quite a number of points last year and it was a huge focus for us. The players did a lot of tackling, more than I have ever experienced as a player or a coach before, by a mile": Cowboys coach Todd Payten.
"It is pretty clear in my head the team we are going to select and then how we are going to move into the next couple of weeks. We have still got some good training sessions in front of us to improve a lot of stuff that happened tonight which isn't where we needed to be": Broncos coach Kevin Walters.
The Cowboys host the new look Bulldogs on Sunday, March 13, while the Broncos welcome the Rabbitohs to Suncorp Stadium on Friday, March 11, with much anticipation about the debut of star recruit Adam Reynolds against his former club.
Brisbane coach Kevin Walters is expected to decide this week whether Billy Walters, Tyson Gamble or Albert Kelly will partner Reynolds in the halves for the opening round clash.
North Queensland coach Todd Payten must also decide on his halves, Tom Dearden and Scott Drinkwater sharing time alongside Chad Townsend against the Broncos and neither doing their chances any harm.