THE Sydney Roosters piled on 22 unanswered points in the second half to score a come-from-behind 32-20 NRL win over North Queensland at Dairy Farmers Stadium.
Roosters half-back Mitchell Pearce scored a hat-trick of tries as the visitors inflicted the last-placed Cowboys’ 13th loss in a row.
The home crowd could sense an upset when their beleaguered team raced to a 20-10 halftime lead but the Roosters fought back strongly in the second half to win and move within two points of NRL leaders Manly.
The return of forward Luke O’Donnell from a lengthy suspension appeared to inspire the Cowboys in the first half, but the backrower was worryingly forced from the field late in the second with what looked a serious injury.
O’Donnell was one of four North Queensland try scorers in the first half with Dayne Weston, Mark Henry and Ty Williams also crossing.
Pearce and Mitchell Aubusson had scored for the Roosters to keep them in touch but it was the NSW halfback’s two tries just after halftime that did the real damage.
Pearce’s second came in the 46th minute on the back of an 85-metre bust started by Aubusson, with Amos Roberts combining with the No.7 to reduce North Queensland’s lead to four.
The former Australian schoolboy star then stole back the lead and completed his hat trick after 53 minutes when he regained a Braith Anasta chip to score next to the posts.
With the Cowboys running out of puff, Willie Mason crashed through some tired defence in the 72nd minute to extinguish any hopes of Cowboys comeback and Roberts capped a strong performance with a try in the final minute.