The Cowboys continued their march towards a home final with a comprehensive 48-4 victory over the Warriors on Friday night at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
The Cowboys did much of the damage between the 37th and 41st minute of the match, scoring three converted tries to crush any hope the Warriors had of remaining in the contest in the second half, with the win ensuring they will remain second heading into round 24 regardless of other results.
Chad Townsend set up a pair of tries and scored one of his own with a cheeky grubber through the line, mid-season signing Luciano Leilua ran for 137 metres and scored, while representative centre Valentine Holmes converted seven of his side's eight tries and kicked a penalty for a personal haul of 16 points.
Leilua the unstoppable
Warriors fullback Reece Walsh on the other hand endured a tough night at the office, missing the last tackle on each of North Queensland's opening two tries and failing to defuse bombs in the lead up to the Cowboys scoring their third and fifth tries.
After helping his side get the ball back by forcing Dallin Watene-Zelezniak in-goal, Coen Hess overpowered Walsh for the opener, before Murray Taulagi ran over the top of the Warriors No.1 for another inside the first 10 minutes.
Hess muscles his way over
The Warriors looked to have fought their way back into the contest when Marcelo Montoya scored five minutes from the break, but it quickly went wrong in a big way as Jeremiah Nanai scored his 17th try of the year, before former Warrior Peta Hiku scored to make it 24-4
Tom Dearden crossed in the opening minute of the second stanza and then again on the hour, with Leilua's try in between helping to blow the final scoreline out.
Dearden slices through
- Jeremiah Nanai scored his 17th try of the year, equaling fellow forward David Fifita's haul from 2022. Nanai was also placed on report for a dangerous tackle in the first half.
- North Queensland have now won seven of their last eight NRL games at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
- The Cowboys' 1959 metres was almost 800 more than the Warriors gained.
- The Warriors made just one line break, compared to North Queensland's nine.
- Warriors fullback Reece Walsh made three errors in the loss and has now made 36 across the year.
- Warriors hooker Wayde Egan and Cowboys wing Kyle Feldt both left the match for HIAs which they passed.
Play of the Game
There were plenty of good tries scored by the Cowboys, but none as visually pleasing as this one from Murray Taulagi. At the end of a well constructed shift which featured touches from several Cowboys, the Maroons back powered over Reece Walsh to finish.
Taulagi finishes a lovely Cowboys try
What They Said
"Really pleased to play the way we played. We started with great intent and some discipline... the Warriors fought really hard to stay in the contest at 12-4. The try before half-time probably broke them a little bit, but what I liked is the fact we were able to rein it in and play some disciplined footy for long periods in that second half." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten.
Cowboys: Round 23
"Too many guys just didn't turn up tonight. We just didn't have enough players that wanted to play for the jersey, attitude has been a big word we have used the last couple of weeks, and when things were tough, poor attitude came into the game. We probably had eight or nine blokes on the field that had a poor attitude." - Warriors coach Stacey Jones.
Warriors: Round 23
Next Saturday the Cowboys head to Accor Stadium to face the Rabbitohs, who will be hurting from their late loss at the hands of the Panthers in round 23.
It doesn't get any easier next week for the Warriors, who face arguably the toughest ask in the NRL right now, travelling to BlueBet Stadium to play the newly-crowned minor premiers, Penrith.