Jason Taumalolo has yet again proved he is the game’s elite forward, guiding the North Queensland Cowboys to victory over the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Taumalolo, who amassed more than 301 metres, was a handful and a half for the Dragons defence who failed to contain him.
It was the perfect start for the Cowboys as life after JT begins, with their 24-12 victory giving them confidence moving forward.
After some early back-and-forth and missed opportunities, it would be the Dragons who would score first.
Capitalising on a Jordan Kahu error, the Dragons went down the field and scored through centre Euan Aitken.
Points still eluded the Cowboys for much of the first half; for, try as they might, they let themselves down or ran into sturdy Dragons defence.
Taumalolo’s first line-break then led to the opening Cowboys try.
After further good lead-up from Michael Morgan and Justin O’Neill, it was Javid Bowen who would score in the corner.
Former Dragon Nene Macdonald then gave his new Cowboys side the lead at half-time at 8-6, scoring in the corner.
As the game ebbed and flowed, the next points would come midway through the second half.
John Asiata showed off his silky skills and set up Morgan for a try of his own.
A second Taumalolo break saw another Cowboys try, with Te Maire Martin backing up to cross the line.
Battered by rain and winds, the Cowboys were hungry for more points and they got their reward.
A deft Morgan grubber found Justin O’Neill who reacted quickest to score.
There was a final consolation try for the Dragons courtesy of winger Jordan Pereira.
Cowboys coach Paul Green believes their club eventually found their mojo and that won them the game.
“I think when we got our game on tonight, that in particular was a bit of a feature for us,” Green said.
“I thought when John Asiata came on he made a real difference and straightened us up.
“Jason was very good. He was a handful as always but I thought we kept pressure on through that middle with all of our forwards, they were all pretty good.”
Although the Dragons have a new-look spine and made a change in the middle, coach Paul McGregor says that is no excuse for the loss.
“Certainly when you’ve got a change to your spine and then we moved Tyson Frizell into the middle, it’s going to take a little bit of time but that’s not an excuse,” McGregor said.
“If we go in at halftime with 50-50 possession, we’re fresh in the second half.
“If we play a little bit smarter to start the second half, it’s a different game.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Jason Taumalolo
2. Josh McGuire
- Michael Morgan