Sydney Roosters got their premiership campaign back on track with a 28-4 win in Townsville against a Cowboys side unable to withstand the loss of three players to the sin-bin.
Prop Tom Gilbert, second-rower Griffin Neame and star halfback Chad Townsend all spent stints in the sin-bin as the Roosters ran in six tries-to-one with coach Trent Robinson watching from home after contracting COVID-19.
Assistant coaches Jason Ryles and Matt King oversaw the Roosters' best performance of the season, led by centre Joey Manu, who scored two tries and threw the final pass for two more.
Gilbert sent to the sin bin for professional foul
Prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, lock Victor Radley, five-eighth Luke Keary and fullback James Tedesco showed outstanding leadership, with the only concern for the Roosters being the goalkicking of Sam Walker, who landed just two conversions.
Trailing 20-0 at halftime, the Cowboys turned in an improved second half performance, despite losing Neame and Townsend to the sin-bin, and star fullback Hamiso Tabuia-Fidow with a knee injury.
Match: Cowboys v Roosters
Round 4 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- The Roosters provided a sign of what was to come when winger Daniel Tupou tapped back a Sam Walker kick on the Cowboys line for centre Paul Momirovski to score in just the sixth minute.
- The Cowboys appeared to recover from the early set-back try but the 21st minute sin-binning of prop Tom Gilbert hurt them badly.
- Joey Manu scored his first try in the 26th minute after an overhead pass from James Tedesco created room for the Kiwis centre.
Teddy taps it on for Manu
- Manu turned provider for Victor Radley three minutes later after drifting across field with the ball and putting the hard running Roosters lock through a gap near the Cowboys line to score.
Manu turns provider for Radley
- Gilbert's return failed to help stem the tide for North Queensland as the Roosters made a break down the left side and scored on the right, with Manu producing a flick pass to put Kevin Naiqama over in the 34th minute.
- Leading 20-0 at halftime, the Roosters picked up where they left off after the interval, with Manu outleaping Valentine Holmes for a Luke Keary cross-field kick and planting the ball for a 43rd minute try.
Manu takes to the air for his double
- The home side coped better when reduced to 12-men for a second time after rookie forward Griffin Neame was sinbinned for a late shot on Sam Walker, with the Roosters crossing the line but Luke Keary being denied a try.
- North Queensland winger Murray Taulagi finally got the home side on the board in the 66th minute after five-eighth Tom Dearden created space for him from a 20-metre scrum win.
Taulagi gets the Cowboys on the board
- Taulagi was denied a second try soon after and the Cowboys were again reduced to 12-men for the final eight minutes of the match after co-captain and halfback Chad Townsend was sin-binned for a high shot on Lindsay Collins.
- Tupou took advantage of the overlap to score his 120th try for the Roosters - one short of the club record held by Shaun Kenny-Dowall - to extend the lead his side's lead to 28-4.
Short side, strong side for the Roosters
Play of the game
Kevin Naiqama scored in his first match back in the NRL after a three-year stint with St Helens and it was a try to savour after the Roosters passed the ball through seven pairs of hands down their left side on the previous tackle and then shifted to the right. Luke Keary threw a long ball to Joey Manu, who got on the outside of Valentine Holmes and then produced a sublime flick pass to put the Fiji captain over in the corner.
Welcome back to the NRL, Kevin Naiqama
What they said
"It is hard to argue with Tommy Gilbert's [sin-binning], but I was really disappointed around Griffin's sin-binning ... they got that wrong, [and] Chad, that was a pretty soft sin-binning. To play 30 minutes with 12 men and only concede the points that we did, I am wrapped with the effort but in saying that we were pretty dumb at certain times. We gave away three tackle four penalties, we got some ball down their end and coughed it up three times": Cowboys coach Todd Payten.
North Queensland Cowboys
"Our leadership was really on show tonight and for the week because on Tuesday the boss goes down with COVID, on Tuesday afternoon we get told that we are going to Townsville a day early because we can't get a ground to train on [in Sydney] because of the weather, and not once did we have anyone complain. They just adapted and they put in a performance like that so I think it is a credit to our leadership, and the whole playing group and whole staff": Roosters assistant coach Jason Ryles.
The Cowboys travel to Redcliffe to take on the Warriors next Friday night, while the Roosters will be across town at Suncorp Stadium to meet the Broncos.
North Queensland coach Todd Payten will need to find a replacement for fullback Hamiso Tabuia-Fidow, who suffered a knee injury midway through the second half, with Scott Drinkwater an obvious choice.
Coen Hess may be available after the representative forward was a late scratching due to a shoulder injury.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson is expected to be back in charge after being forced to watch Saturday night's match from home in Sydney while isolating with COVID-19.