The Cowboys outmuscled an undermanned Raiders outfit to score a clinical 26-6 win in Townsville on Saturday night.
Led by superstar lock Jason Taumalolo and star recruit Chad Townsend, North Queensland dominated possession and field position before running over the top of Canberra late in the match.
Taumalolo ran a game high 161 metres with the ball and was supported by young forwards Jeremiah Nanai, Tom Gilbert, Griffin Neame and Heilum Luki as they powered through the middle of the ruck.
Townsend and five-eighth Tom Dearden enjoyed playing behind a dominant forward pack to create opportunities for outside backs Hamiso Tabuia-Fidow, Valentine Holmes, Murray Taulagi, Peta Hiku and Kyle Feldt.
The only sour note for Cowboys coach Todd Payten was a season-ending knee injury to forward Mitch Dunn in the first half.
In contrast, the Raiders last tackle options were poor, with Matt Frawley being the third halfback used by Ricky Stuart in the past three matches after Jamal Fogarty suffered a knee injury in the pre-season and Brad Schneider was ruled out with COVID-19.
Canberra were also missing Nick Cotric, Jordan Rapana, Josh Hodgson and Harley Smith-Shields.
Match: Cowboys v Raiders
Round 2 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi opened the scoring with a spectacular try in the sixth minute after halves Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden combined to create some space for the 23-year-old. Taulagi still had plenty to do after receiving the ball and managed to tip-toe along the sideline before placing the ball in the corner.
Taulagi tiptoes through to score
- A Jack Wighton 40:20 put the Raiders into an attacking position but Peta Hiku intercepted a Matt Frawley pass on his own 10 metre line and raced over half way.
- A high shot by Raiders centre Semi Valemei on Tom Gilbert compounded Canberra's woes and Valentine Holmes kicked a penalty goal to put the home team ahead 6-0 in the 18th minute.
- Another Holmes penalty goal eight minutes later extended North Queensland's lead.
- Kiwis forward Corey Harawira-Naera took it upon himself to get the Raiders on the scoreboard when he forced his way through four defenders to score in the 30th minute and landed his first goal in the NRL.
CHN backs his way in to score
- The Cowboys responded by upping their defensive resolve, as Holmes and and Taulagi forced errors with brutal shots on Adam Elliott and Matt Frawley before half time.
- After managing to stay in the field of play by millimetres early in the match, Taulagi was unable to repeat the feat and had a try disallowed in the 39th minute.
- The Raiders managed to hang on despite the weight of possession against them but the concerted pressure finally told when Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow outleapt his fullback opposite Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad to take a Chad Townsend bomb and scored in the 55th minute.
Hammer time in North Queensland
- The sinbinning of Hudson Young in the 59th minute for a professional foul after holding Jeremiah Nanai back as he chased a Townsend grubber all but put paid to Canberra's hopes of snatching a late win.
- Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt scored in the 68th minute off a Peta Hiku grubber and Nanai then got his try three minutes later after outleaping the Canberra defence for a Tom Dearden bomb.
Dearden piling on the pressure
Play of the game
Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi is renowned for his try scoring feats but it was a bruising shot on Raiders halfback Matt Frawley just before halftime that had as a great an impact on Saturday night. Taulagi rocked Frawley after racing in from his wing to make a tackle that was so powerful it not only forced the ball loose but also caused Frawley's left boot to go flying.
Taulagi knocks Frawley's boots off
What they said
"We had a pretty tough pre-season, almost every day we have been tackling and obviously it is paying off for us. Last year we weren't very good defensively obviously and tackling was an area we wanted to fix so Dean Young has applied pressure on us to work harder in defence and now it obviously showing the benefits. I went into last week's game without playing a trial match. Tonight felt a lot better and obviously the outside noise was a bit of motivator for me so it is good to be out there and running freely again": Cowboys captain Jason Taumalolo.
North Queensland Cowboys
"When you have less football, complete less sets and make more errors than your opposition you make it very hard to win and we made it very difficult for ourselves tonight in that regard. I take nothing away from the Cowboys, they played well but they had a lot of football and we were very ill disciplined with it in regards to our completions and finishing sets off. Frustration creeps in to a football team when that happens and I could see that very clearly": Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
The Cowboys travel to Brisbane for the Queensland derby clash with the Broncos next Sunday, while the Raiders host the Titans in the national capital on Saturday night.
With Mitch Dunn feared to have suffered a season ending knee injury against the Raiders, North Queensland coach Todd Payten will consider the likes of Jamayne Taunoa-Brown, Rueben Cotter, Ben Condon or Riley Price as his replacement.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart will welcome the return of Jordan Rapana from suspension, while halfback Brad Schneider should be available for the clash with the Titans after missing the trip to Townsville due to COVID-19.