The North Queensland Cowboys have gotten their 2008 NRL campaign well and truly back on track after a slow start in the early rounds. The Cowboys hit top gear last night and blew away the Warriors, led admirably by their fullback Matt Bowen who had a hand in most of the action. The Cowboys winning out 48 – 20.
Bowen, returning to the field after two games out with a knee injury, was the architect for the home side, grabbing three tries and adding some flair to the backline.
Cowboys half-back Johnathan Thurston gave Australia selectors notice of his representative intentions for next month’s Test against the Kiwis, playing a hand in four tries.
His most spectacular effort of the night came in the 68th minute, when he found space before chipping infield for flying Bowen, who touched down for his third try.
Steve Southern provided Bowen with a neat offload for his first in the eighth minute while the Hopevale product did it all himself for his second near half-time, bamboozling Warriors centre Brent Tate with some fancy footwork.
The Cowboys could pay a heavy price for the win with inspirational back rower Luke O’Donnell forced to the bench with hamstring soreness, however the move was seen as a precautionary measure.
The Warriors did well to fight back from an early Cowboys onslaught, with the home side leading 10-0 after 12 minutes and then 16-6 in the 23rd.
First-half tries to Simon Mannering and Ian Henderson had the Warriors trailing by just two points, 16-14, nearing the break.
But Bowen’s second try stretched the margin to eight points at the break.
And the Cowboys then started the second half on fire, with backline recruits John Williams latching onto a Thurston bomb to score before Ben Harris charged onto yet another Thurston pass for an 18-point lead.
Harris crossed for his double late in the game after scooping up yet another dropped Warriors ball to extend take the final margin to 28 points.
Warriors coach Ivan Cleary was left searching for answers following yet another away loss at the hands of the red hot Cowboys.
Cleary’s side have now lost all three of their away games this season after bowing out of last year’s finals with a 49-12 drubbing at the hands of the Cowboys in Townsville.
“Matt Bowen and Johnathan Thurston were on another planet to us tonight,” Cleary said.
“They are great players and if you are off they make you pay.
“We were just flat, we just didn’t really have any sting in what we did at all.
“It is very disappointing. There are obviously some problems. We will just have to work a bit harder and come up with some answers.”
Cowboys coach Graham Murray couldn’t help but praise the performance of his returning full-back.
“He wasn’t right for the past two games, he improved his fitness training with us and doing a little cross training, but he needed to right mentally and he was,” Murray said of Bowen.
“Matty was very good – three tries and he was menacing every time he touched the ball.
“He got up and played dummy-half to give people a spell and he was very active.”
Johnathan Thurston, struggling with a virus, was lucky to take the field according to Murray.
“It was a pretty big effort by him. I was only thinking he was 60-40 when I got the phone call this morning. We left him to sleep,” Murray revealed.
“He has played a leading role at not quite 100 per cent tonight. It is amazing what he has done.”