The North Queensland Cowboys have come away with the points in Round 7 of the NRL in Townsville, downing the Rabbitohs by 44-18.
After going to the break trailing 18-6, the Cowboys went on with the job to score a total of eight tries to wrap up the competition points.
Sustained pressure in the opening five minutes coupled with a Rabbitohs error, saw the Cowboys draw first blood in the match through Gavin Cooper, who hit the ball at speed close to the line before bettering the position for the conversion. Thurston converted to make it 6-0.
But it wouldn’t take long for Souths to hit back – the men in Red and Green showing great patience and enthusiasm to grind forward, eventually resulting in an explosive try to Chris Grevsmuhl. Adam Reynolds converted to equalise the match at six apiece.
The match looked to be hotting up, with both sides going in for some heavy contact, but it would be the Cowboys through Thurston who would be next to score just five minutes later. The Test half kicked into the in-goal before chasing and planting it down himself before converting his own try to make it 12-6.
An arm-wrestle ensued before a break from Luke Keary saw Reynolds put in a well-weighted, low kick to Aaron Gray’s wing. It became a foot-race for the in-goal with the Cowboys ultimately grounding the ball in desperation. The Rabbitohs however were unable to capitalise on the ensuing repeat set.
It would be a penalty against Souths that would lead to North Queensland’s next try – Justin O’Neill benefitting from some brilliant lead-up work from Thurston. Thurston converted to notch up his 1000th point at the Cowboys’ home ground, making the score 18-6 with 11 minutes left in the half.
With the game being played at a hurricane pace, it was the Rabbitohs who piled the pressure on in the final three minutes of the first half. But after three repeat-sets, an error of the scrum in prime attacking position would wrap up the half with the teams going to the sheds with the home side leading 18-6.
On the resumption, Hymel Hunt was placed on report for an alleged high-shot, and the penalty would lead to a try to Kyle Feldt in the corner. Thurston added the extras from the touch-line to make it 24-6.
Souths would throw everything they had at the Cowboys defence after pinning them down in the mid-stages of the second half with Bryson Goodwin coming within millimetres of scoring.
But the home-side were about to turn that desperation defence into attack – and the game on its head. A long-range break saw the side go 100 metres to eventually get Ethan Lowe over the line to make it 28-6.
The Cowboys would back it up with a try to Antonio Winterstein on the other side of the field mere moments later – Thurston converting to make it 34-6.
The floodgates had seemingly opened, with the Cowboys by now buoyed by their momentum. That buoyancy would lead to O’Neill grabbing his second of the night to take the score to 38-6 with 15 minutes in the match remaining.
Cowboys prop, Matt Scott, then found himself on report after hitting Inglis high on a kick-return – the Rabbitohs skipper being taken from the field for a mandatory assessment under the game’s concussion rules.
The incident would spur on the Rabbitohs, with the men in Red and Green charging up-field before a final-tackle fumble from Thurston in the in-goal allowed Sam Burgess to grab his first try since 2014. Reynolds converted to make it 38-12.
But a handling error would again undo the Rabbitohs – the error on their own side of half-way resulting in a try to Michael Morgan. Thurston made no mistake adding the extras to make it 44-12 with seven minutes remaining.
A consolation try to Reynolds – who took an intercept 45 metres out would serve to narrow the gap, and with the halfback’s conversion, bring the final score to 44-18.
Cowboys 44 (Gavin Cooper, Johnathan Thurston, Justin O’Neill 2, Kyle Feldt, Ethan Lowe, Antonio Winterstein, Michael Morgan, tries; Johnathan Thurston 6 goals)
Rabbitohs 18 (Chris Grevsmuhl, Sam Burgess, Adam Reynolds, tries; Adam Reynolds 3 goals)