Brendan Wood reviews the North Queensland Cowboys strong 32-6 win over the Gold Coast Titans on Thursday night.
Gold Coast Titans 6
Tries: Toby Sexton (16)
Goals: Jamayne Isaako (17)
North Queensland Cowboys 32
Tries: Heilum Luki (28), Murray Tuilagi (31), Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 2 (36, 72), Reece Robson (67), Peta Hiku (77)
Goals: Scott Drinkwater 4 (29, 37, 68, 78)
MATCH REPORTEmbed from Getty Images
With both sides missing players to Origin duty, an early penalty had the Titans on the attack. Toby Sexton had control of his short kicking game as he forced a line drop-out. Returning the kick, Jarrod Wallace offloaded to Jayden Campbell who broke through for a 40-metre run.
After weathering an attacking set and second line drop-out, Scott Drinkwater produced a short kick and the Cowboys finally recovered the ball. Almost as quickly as they had won possession, the Cowboys lost it again when they gave away another penalty.
The weight of the field position began to take a toll for the Cowboys, as the Titans pounced. AJ Brimson threw an inside pass and Toby Sexton scored the opening try as he split two defenders to dive over.
It took some time after conceding points, but the Cowboys eventually got some attacking possession. With sustained pressure, they worked the Titans over and broke through to find a response. Scott Drinkwater went to the line and threw a flat pass to a charging Heilum Luki, who hit and spun out of the tackle to slam the ball down for a try.
Following the Luki try, a kick out on the full from Toby Sexton turned the ball over cheaply for the Titans. In the next set, the Cowboys had their second try. Scott Drinkwater was again involved, throwing a cut-out pass to Murray Tuilagi who scored in the corner.
Despite the Titans’ best efforts, the tries kept coming for the Cowboys. This time it was a solid tackle from Murray Tuilagi that knocked the ball away from Jamayne Isaako. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow kicked the loose ball ahead and raced away for the third try in 10 minutes.
The Cowboys had one final crack to score before the break, but couldn’t make it count as they hit halftime leading the Titans by 10.
HALF-TIME: Gold Coast Titans 6 North Queensland Cowboys 16Embed from Getty Images
The second half started sloppy from both sides as they traded errors early. The Titans held the ball longer and were on the verge of scoring, however Murray Tuilagi intercepted a cut-out pass. He offloaded quickly to Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who raced 70-metres before he was pulled down by Jayden Campbell. To the Titans credit, their defence scrambled well and snuffed out any chance of a try.
Both sides settled into the half but neither looked fluid with the ball. The Titans began to win the momentum, but each time the looked dangerous they failed to execute. The Cowboys with less opportunities early in the half, similarly struggled to maintain possession.
Midway through the half, the Titans were struck a cruel blow when Jayden Campbell left the game with a suspected torn hamstring. This, paired with too many errors, had the Cowboys attacking the line again. The short kicking games of Chad Townsend and Scott Drinkwater were on show as the Cowboys built the pressure with repeat set after repeat set.
Again it was an error that let the pressure off the Titans. They began the tough task of working the ball away from their own line, and found metres difficult to come by. Eventually they did get out of trouble, but each set ended in disappointment as they failed to execute.
Undeterred by the Titans lacklustre attack, the Cowboys finally found the points they had searched for all half. Reece Robson jumped out of dummy half and caught the Titans napping. He burrowed his way through a tackle and reached out to score from close range.
With the margin outside two converted tries, the floodgates opened for the Titans. Inside the final 10 minutes the Cowboys ran in two more tries. Scott Drinkwater setup Tabuai-Fidow’s second try with a well-weighted short kick. Peta Hiku was the beneficiary of an inside ball from Jake Granville when he sliced through a big gap to score, sealing a strong win for the Cowboys without their Origin stars.
FULL-TIME: Gold Coast Titans 6 North Queensland Cowboys 32
PLAYER OF THE YEAR POINTSEmbed from Getty Images
3 pts – Scott Drinkwater (North Queensland Cowboys), 2 pts – Jason Taumalolo (North Queensland Cowboys), 1 pt – Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (North Queensland Cowboys)
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