Match Summary An earlier-than-expected return from injury by Matt Bowen has sparked the North Queensland Cowboys to put in their most dominant performance of the year so far, dismantling the Warriors 48-20.
The mercurial fullback capped off a fine game with a hat trick of tries in the nine try-to-three rout that raised $12,000 for Rugby League's One Community charity.
Bowen's partner in crime Jonathan Thurston put in an equally dominant performance, teasing and tearing apart the Warriors defence with his full repertoire of skills, and placing Queensland selectors in two minds as to who to pick at halfback, with fellow statesman Scott Prince also in fine form.
The Cowboys were in charge of this one from the get-go, with Bowen crossing in the 8th minute following a big break by Steve Southern. Two minutes later and the Cowboys were in again, with Thurston finding Justin Smith out wide with a huge overlap.
Southern found himself rewarded for all his great work in the game so far with a try at the 23rd, before Bowen grabbed his second right on halftime.
It wasn't all Cowboys, with the Warriors eventually finding their feet in the first half through tries to Simon Mannering in the 17th, Ian Henderson in the 32nd and a penalty goal to Michael Witt, which had the Warriors only two points behind before Bowen scored his second.
The second half, however, was all Cowboys, with a combination of poor handling close to their line, and equally as poor fifth tackle options from halves Witt and Grant Rovelli conspiring against the Warriors and allowing the Cowboys to really let loose.
Ben Harris got a double, and Bowen got his third in what ended up a game where the Warriors would have found themselves on the wrong end of a half-century scoreline for the second time this year had Thurston not been given an early mark with ten minutes to go.
Ivan Cleary and his charges will have much soul searching to do this week as they seek to regroup and take on the table-topping Gold Coast Titans at the 'Temple of Boom' next Sunday. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have set-up a mouth watering match up with reigning premiers Melbourne Storm in exactly one weeks time.
North Queensland Cowboys 48 Tries: Matt Bowen (3), Justin Smith, Steve Southern, John Williams, Ben Harris (2), Ashley Graham Goals: Johnathan Thurston (6/8), Ashley Graham (0/1) New Zealand Warriors 20 Tries: Simon Mannering, Ian Henderson, Jerome Ropati Goals: Michael Witt (4/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Matt Bowen (Cowboys) 2 Points: Johnathan Thurston (Cowboys) 1 Point: Steve Southern (Cowboys)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Good evening and welcome to Townsville for tonights Heritage Round match between two of the relatively young teams in the NRL in the North Queensland Cowboys and the Warriors. Both teams joined top level rugby league in 1995, both have experienced Grand Finals but are yet to have a Premiership victory to their name.
Team changes for tonight are as follows: Cowboys: The Cowboys will be boosted by the return of star fullback Matt Bowen, playing in jersey 23. Bowen back in the team pushes Ashley Graham back into the centres, Mark Henry out to the wing with Ty Williams dropping out of the team. The bench reads Faust, Weston, Bartlett and Faiumu. Warriors: In contrast, the Warriors are as per programme.
Both teams are out on the field, sporting their respective heritage jerseys. The Cowboys representing the North Queensland representative team of the 1960's by wearing an almost all blue jersey. The Warriors bearing their red and white alternate jersey from 1999/2000.
0 min: And we're underway, with the Warriors to get first use of the ball.
2 min: Jerome Ropati, playing his first game since round 2, makes an immediate impact by almost breaking clear down the sideline, however he is tackled into touch and the Cowboys will get first field position of the game.
3 min: A loose pass goes to ground and is pounced on by Lance Hohaia to relieve early pressure on the Warriors.
4 min: Brent Tate gives us all a feeling of deja vu, as he makes a half break down the right sideline but is also tackled into touch. Cowboys to get another good attacking opportunity.
6 min: Defence on the fringes has been the star early in the game, with Mark Henry taking a lovely ball from Matt Bowen and racing away for the corner, only to be tackled into touch by Patrick Ah Van.
7 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys The Cowboys go almost the length of the field and Matt Bowen marks his return from injury by grabbing first points tonight following a great bust by Steve Southern. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 6-0
9 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: It's taken almost ten minutes but we have our first penalty of the match, going against the Warriors for contact with the head.
11 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Cowboys Try... Robinson has sent this one upstairs to check on obstruction.
11 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Chris Ward rules Vatuvei to have just made a poor read in defence and awards the try, this time scored by Justin Smith. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston unsuccessful. North Queensland Cowboys 10-0
13 min: Easy metres being made by the Cowboys following the restart, making it down to the Warriors 30 having to kick on the last.
14 min: Michael Witt loses the ball cold on the last, and the Cowboys will get a full set starting on the halfway line.
15 min: Rare mistake from Jonathan Thurston sees a long cut-out ball fall at the feet of Henry, and the Cowboys attack comes undone early in the set.
16 min: PENALTY - Warriors: The Warriors get their first penalty and will get an easy ride into Cowboys territory.
17 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Warriors Try... Checking a possible try to Simon Mannering, and if there was a knock on from Vatuvei in the lead up.
17 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Video ref Chris Ward sends it back down to Robinson and Robinson awards the try. A cross-field kick on the last from Rovelli is contested by Vatuvei and Williams in the air, where it is knocked back into the hands of Mannering who crosses for the try. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. North Queensland Cowboys 10-6
19 min: Hohaia cleans up a grubber from Thurston in the in-goal, but in turn is cleaned up in-goal and the Cowboys will get the repeat set from the goal-line dropout.
21 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Aaron Payne darts out of dummy half on the last and fires a ball out to Bluey Southern who dives over next to the posts. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 16-6
23 min: Cowboys in full control of this game at the moment, enjoying a 60-40 possession spread, with 71% of the game being played in the Warriors half.
25 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Cowboys get an easy ride off their line courtesy of a stripped ball.
26 min: PENALTY - Warriors: North Queensland looked set to score another try, only to lose the ball and then compound the error by giving away a penalty.
28 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Warriors Try... Chris Ward checking to see if Tate has knocked the ball on in attempting to knock the ball back following the cross field kick on the last.
28 min: NO TRY - 20 Metre Restart Brent Tate has knocked the ball on, and the Cowboys are let off the hook.
28 min: PENALTY - Warriors: Luke O'Donnell gives a penalty away while in possession for a bit of push and shove in the ruck. Witt lines up to take the kick.
31 min: O'Donnell knocks the ball on on his own 40 and continues what has been an average game by his standards so far.
32 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors Soft goal-line defence by the Cowboys sees Ian Henderson bust through three Cowboys defenders and fall over next to the posts. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. North Queensland Cowboys 16-14
35 min: The Cowboys can consider themselves incredibly lucky to have possession of the ball. Rovelli put up a bomb on the last which no-one on either team went for. The ball bounced and was cleaned up by Ah Van, who then put a nothing grubber through to Matt Bowen, who in the process of coming away from his line lost the ball backwards but was able to scramble back and clean up before the defence converged on him.
38 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Thurston makes a half break and fires the ball out to Henry in space, but he is quickly rounded up by Ah Van and Sonny Fai who then give away the penalty for holding down in the tackle.
39 min: PENALY - Cowboys: The Warriors were too quick up off their line and give away another penalty, this one ten out from their own line.
40 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys The Cowboys take the quick tap following the penalty, and the ball makes its way across field and into the hands of Matt Bowen who runs through a huge hole and ends the half just as he started it. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 22-14
HALF TIME It's half time here at Townsville and the home team find themselves leading the visitors 22-14. It's been an entertaining game so far, with both teams showing that they're willing to throw the ball around to score points. The Cowboys completely dominated the first twenty minutes as the Warriors found themselves incapable of launching any form of sustained attack, either coming undone through handling errors or poor options. The Warriors were able to eventually find their form and scored points as a result, however towards the end of the first half found themselves plagued yet again by poor fifth tackle options. The Cowboys haven't had such problems in attack, although their goal-line defence does look a little flimsy.
Stand out players so far include Jonathan Thurston, Matt Bowen and Steve Southern for the Cowboys, while Brent Tate and Simon Mannering have looked dangerous for the Warriors, and Epalahame Lauaki continues to prove a handful off the bench.
40 min: And Michael Witt gets the second half underway!
42 min: Rovelli puts through a nice kick into the in-goal which has to be taken dead by the Cowboys. Goal-line dropout.
43 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Lauaki gives away a penalty in possession for playing the ball when referee Robinson was calling play on.
44 min: The Cowboys attack falls to pieces on the last play, and Lauaki breathes a sigh of relief.
46 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Thurston puts the ball high to Vatuvei's corner on the last, and John Williams leaps up high over Manu to grab the ball and grab the try. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston unsuccessful. North Queensland Cowboys 26-14
50 min: David Faiumu tries to force the impossible pass and the Cowboys find themselves in possession on the halfway line.
51 min: PENALTY - Warriors: The Cowboys compound the error by giving away a penalty and giving the Warriors a full set inside the 20.
51 min: Vatuvei gets his first real run in the game and goes ever so close to scoring a try. On the next play the Warriors spread it out to the opposite wing and Ah Van gets forced over the sideline.
53 min: PENALTY - Warriors: Sam Faust very clearly gets called offside at marker, yet makes a ball and all tackle and gives away another penalty to the Warriors, who have enjoyed a fair bit of field position in this half, yet have nothing to show for it.
55 min: Rovelli kicks to the corner on the last, and the ball is batted back by Vatuvei. Bowen chips ahead before being taken out on suspicion by Hohaia. The Warriors end up with the ball and Witt tries to take advantage of the Cowboys staggered defensive line before losing the ball in trying to pass.
57 min: The Warriors lose the ball close to their line and the Cowboys will have an opportunity to put this game beyond doubt early.
58 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Thurston takes advantage of a stacked short-side, passing out to Harris who barges over for the try. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 32-14
61 min: Long break made down the left side, started off by Bowen with a half break, before passing inside to Thurston on the charge, then out to Henry on the wing who is rounded up by the defence
63 min: Another handling error close to the line hands another attacking opportunity over to the Cowboys.
65 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Thurston grubbers through on the third tackle and Graham races through to add his name to the scoresheet. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 38-14
67 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Matt Bowen finishes off the try of the night, but the points should go to Thurston who did all the work. Thurston was given the ball on his own 40 and took on the line, selling Mannering a massive dummy before slicing straight through and racing down the sideline, before kicking in-field for Bowen to clean up and plant the ball behind the posts. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 44-14
69 min: Following the conversion, Thurston gets a much deserved early mark from the game.
71 min: Bluey Southern finds himself on the end of a backline movement and goes agonisingly close to getting a brace of tries.
74 min: Bowen proves his mortality, knocking on at dummy half a metre out from his line.
75 min: TRY New Zealand Warriors From the scrum, the Warriors go straight to the blind side and grab a consolation try through Ropati. Conversion attempt by Michael Witt successful. North Queensland Cowboys 44-20
77 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Cowboys Try...
77 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Ruben Wiki loses the ball on the very first tackle following the restart. Ben Harris swoops on the ball and grabs his second of the night. Conversion attempt by Ashley Graham unsuccessful. North Queensland Cowboys 48-20
FULL TIME The Cowboys have flexed their full muscle, dismantling the Warriors 48-20.