The North Queensland Cowboys have extended their winning streak to four games, after ably putting away a brave Newcastle Knights outfit lacking in polish, running out 36-16 winners in Townsville.
Coming into this game, the Knights would have been hoping to turn around their ailing fortunes.
After early-season success, the Novacastrians have been nullified, coming into this match on a six-game winning streak.
Meanwhile, the North Queensland Cowboys appear to have cracked their offense, with Tom Dearden, Scott Drinkwater and Chad Townsend combining well after only a few games together.
It would be that man Tom Dearden, unwanted at his last club, who managed to open the scoring only two minutes into the game with a rolling effort in the corner.
Knights fans would be nearly ready to turn off the TV already.
However, to the surprise of many, the Knights managed to strike back with their own effort from the returning Dominic Young to bring the game to 6-4.
The game then settled into an unexpected arm-wrestle, the much-favoured Cowboys unable to get on top of the flailing Knights.
Eventually, pressure would turn to points when the rejuvenated Kyle Feldt showed he still has plenty of try-scoring left in him.
Not to be outdone, Newcastle would hit back almost immediately through Jacob Saifiti, pouncing on a deflected ball under the sticks.
Two tries apiece in the first half-hour, the game promised to be more than the pundits predicted.
After a quiet few weeks, Captain Kalyn Ponga seemed to determined to make an impact on the game, demanding the ball nearly every set.
For all the Knights’ woes, they look much better when Ponga is invested.
Just before the break, in a shock turn, Chris Randall would cross the stripe to put Newcastle in the lead for the first time in the game.
Despite their outs and their issues, a strong-running forward pack and involved Ponga meant the Knights were somehow able to put themselves in a winning position at the half.
But, in a sign of their struggles, those would be the last points Newcastle scored all evening.
Almost immediately after the break, before you could blink, Murray Taulagi had muscled his way over.
A few minutes later and Valentine Holmes was continuing his hot run of form with a try of his own.
Even with the setbacks, Newcastle seemed to determine to continue on with the game.
Unfortunately, a dearth of experience across the park, and especially in the spin, meant that a fated comeback was already all but gone.
An injury to Jack Johns and Edrick Lee wouldn’t help matters, with both leaving the field after 55 minutes.
Jason Taumalolo increasingly looks like his dangerous old self, with two disallowed tries to go with his 180 metres, 17 tackles, 3 tackle busts and a linebreak.
The real star, however, was Reuben Cotter, whose efforts were the driving force behind much of the Cowboys momentum.
For the Knights, Jacob Saifiti and Bradman Best both muscled up in defence and looked dangerous running the ball.
Jeremiah Nanai and Heilum Luki would round out the scoring, the final score looking unpleasant for a Knights team that defended with passion – if lacking a little finesse.
North Queensland Cowboys 36 (Dearden, Feldt, Taulagi, Holmes, Nanai, Luki) def Newcastle Knights 16 (Young, Saifiti, Randall)
NRL News Player of the Match
3 Points – Reuben Cotter (NQL)
2 Points – Chad Townsend (NQL)
1 Point – Tom Dearden (NQL)