North Queensland have finally jumped off the starting blocks and posted their first points for season 2008, running rampant over the Parramatta Eels to the tune of 38 points to 14.
In a match that, on paper, looked to be a tight one, the Eels were their own worst enemy, giving away far too many penalties and far too much possession to a team who, after having scored a total of 30 points in the first three rounds, were hungry and looking to score points at every opportunity.
The Cowboys were in charge right from the kickoff, with Carl Webb grabbing first points in the third minute following the first of many penalties against Parramatta helped the Cowboys into good field position.
Aaron Payne was at his scheming best from dummy half, finding holes in the defence left, right and centre, before laying on a lovely ball for Steve Southern in the ninth minute, who steamed his way towards the line, then passed on to Justin Smith to finish the play off beside the posts.
The Eels got their first real attacking opportunity of the match following their first penalty in the 16th minute, and took full advantage with Tim Smith dribbling a nice grubber into the in-goal for Brett Finch to pounce on and give Eels fans some hope.
Ashley Graham did his best to dash that hope, however, when he found himself on the end of a slick backline movement and used his strength to barge over in the corner. Thurston continued what would end up being a perfect night with the boot by curling in the ball from the sideline.
The Eels grabbed another try through winger Eric Grothe, but yet another penalty from them gave Thurston a shot at goal on the stroke of halftime, and we ended up with a score of 20 to 10 in favour of the home team at the half.
The second fourty was a Cowboys-dominated affair, however it wasn't until the 57th minute that the scoreboard attendant was called upon, when the Cowboys put together the play of the night.
Collecting a grubber on his own goal-line, Graham pulled a Matt Bowen-esque play out of his hat by firing a long ball out to Ty Williams on the wing. Williams, who was under heavy pressure from Joel Reddy, stepped inside Reddy, then raced fourty metres downfield before passing inside to Thurston, who in turn found Graham backing up. Graham pinned his ears back and set himself for the corner, but was pulled down from behind by Luke Burt five out from the line. The ball was spun infield to Thurston on the next play who went to take the line on, then changed his mind and fired the ball out to Jacob Lillyman, who strolled over for the try.
Centre Mark Henry guaranteed the win for the Cowboys four minutes later, before Anthony Watts capped a fine game from the bench with the first try of his career in the 75th.
To cap off a horrid night for the Eels, Reddy was placed on report in the tenth minute for a lifting tackle on Carl Webb, however replays suggest that it's actually Brett Finch who looks to have a date with the judiciary.
Match Details Round 4 - Full Time :: April 5th, 2008 9:30pm Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium Referee: Bernard Sutton
North Queensland Cowboys 38 Tries: Carl Webb, Justin Smith, Ashley Graham, Jacob Lillyman, Mark Henry, Anthony Watts Goals: Johnathan Thurston (7/7) Parramatta Eels 14 Tries: Brett Finch, Eric Grothe, Taulima Tautai Goals: Luke Burt (1/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Aaron Payne 2 Points: Johnathan Thurston 1 Point: Anthony Watts
0 min: Rookie Referee Bernard Sutton blows time on in just his second First Grade game in charge, and we're underway here in Townsville
2 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: North Queensland the first to receive advantage of the controversial off-season rule change, when the Video Ref over-rules the on-field decision of knock-on, but awarding a penalty for a strip.
3 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys The Cowboys take full advantage of the field position gained from the penalty with Carl Webb barging over from very short range. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 6-0
5 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: North Queensland dominating this game early and certainly not playing like a win-less team. Make a huge break down the right hand side with Payne causing all the trouble, before Hindmarsh gives away the penalty for holding down in the tackle.
7 min: A reprieve here for the Eels, as the Cowboys lose the ball on the restart after a goal-line dropout.
7 min: A double knock on early in Parramatta's resultant set gives possession back to the Cowboys in Eels territory.
9 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Cowboys have come out of the blocks firing tonight, and look nothing like the team who have been anchored to the bottom of the table for the first three rounds. Payne slices through the defence, before passing to a steaming Steve Southern, who in turn finds Justin Smith who races around under the posts to score. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 12-0
13 min: Outstanding enthusiasm shown by the Cowboys. Thurston gets caught with the ball on the last tackle and puts a rushed kick into the in-goal. Luke Burt clears it up, but is greeted by not one, not two, not three, but four Cowboys defenders who force him touch in-goal.
16 min: PENALTY - Eels: Carl Webb goes high on Nathan Cayless, and the Eels will get their first real attacking opportunity of the match.
18 min: TRY Parramatta Eels The Eels take full advantage of the attacking opportunity given to them by the Cowboys courtesy of Brett Finch pouncing on a Tim Smith grubber in-goal just adjacent to the goal posts. Conversion attempt by Luke Burt successful. North Queensland Cowboys 12-6
21 min: Thurston obviously leading by example in keeping enthusiasm levels high after that try. Following a clearing kick on the fifth, Thurston was first man down there chasing and laid a nice big shoulder charge on Taulima Tautai. Two tackles later and he was over on the other wing, assisting Ty Williams in forcing Reddy into touch and getting the ball back for his team.
26 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Parramatta continue to give the ball away through silly handling errors in their own half, and this time compound the error by giving away a penalty for holding down in the tackle.
27 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Ashley Graham does his bit to help cover the pre-game loss of Matt Bowen, chiming in on the end of a backline movement and using his strength to barge over for the try in the left hand corner. Thurston curls the ball in from the sideline in a beauty of a kick. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 18-6
32 min: In a rare sight for Parramatta fans, Hindmarsh is off for an early spell on the bench
33 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Parramatta hand the Cowboys another invitation to score points by giving them a fresh set on attack in Eels territory.
34 min: The gods certainly aren't with the Eels tonight. Jarryd Hayne intercepts the ball five out from his own line and you'd back him to go the length of the field. Unfortunately for him, Graham gets back there, forcing him in-field and into the path of Luke O'Donnell who knocks the ball free in the tackle, into the path of Thurston who kicks the ball back into Grahams hands and the Cowboys come up with possession.
36 min: TRY Parramatta Eels A rare mistake in their own half gives Parra an opportunity to reel in this scoreline, which they don't waste as Eric Grothe runs down a narrow passage on the wing and plants the ball in the corner. Conversion attempt by Luke Burt unsuccessful. North Queensland Cowboys 18-10
39 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Brett Finch looks to be a bit hard done by here as the Cowboys had no-one at dummy half so Finch dives on the ball from marker, yet gets penalised in a call which has obviously come from the touch-judge. Thurston lining up the shot at goal.
HALF TIME It's half time here in Townsville and the Cowboys look well on their way to posting their first win of the season, leading the Parramatta Eels at the break 20 points to 10.
40 min: Luke Burt gets the second half underway!
40 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: The Eels continue on their ill-disciplined ways which now see the penalty count sitting at 7-1 against them. This time it's Todd Lowrie punching the ball out in a 2-man tackle on Shane Tronc and the Cowboys will get the first opportunity of the second half.
42 min: PENALTY - Eels: A lucky break for the Eels as Thurston is penalised for not clearing the ruck.
43 min: Brett Finch wastes a golden opportunity close to the line by just simply dropping the ball with no pressure on him whatsoever.
45 min: PENALTY - Eels: The Eels get another easy ride out of their own end, this time for the Cowboys not being square at marker.
46 min: PENALTY - Eels: Lowrie drops the ball as the Eels attack falls apart, but the Eels will get a penalty in interesting circumstances. The far touchie has come in reporting of a late shot on Finch by Shane Tronc. Thurston arguing what we're all thinking in that it was the far side touch judge who saw it, while the near side touchie, who was much, much closer to the play, saw nothing.
49 min: Things looking a lot closer in the second half, with both teams threatening but being guilty of poor execution and handling at crucial times.
51 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: Finch goes high on Luke O'Donnell and the Cowboys get yet another piggy-back out of their own half.
53 min: Reddy gets trapped in-goal, so a repeat set coming up here for the Cowboys.
55 min: Payne puts a bit too much weight behind a grubber in-goal, and the Eels survive the attacking raid.
57 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys A marvellous try for the Cowboys here which has gone the length of the field in just two plays. Cleaning up a grubber on his own in-goal line, Graham fires a long, speculating pass out to Ty Williams who, despite being under heavy pressure from Reddy, steps and finds himself racing 40 metres downfield before passing inside to Thurston, who in turn finds Graham backing up. Graham sets himself for the corner but gets rounded up 5 out from the line by Burt. On the next play the ball is spun out to Thurston who goes to take the line on, then re-thinks, pirouettes, and fires the ball out to Lillyman who juggles it before latching on and strolling over the line. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 26-10
61 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Cowboys Try...
61 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys The Cowboys take full advantage of a very tired and flat-footed defence by spinning the ball out wide for Mark Henry to grab his first try of the year, and in turn wrap up North Queenslands first win of the season. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 32-10
63 min: PENALTY - Eels: O'Donnell gets penalised and told by referee Sutton "it's rubbish", however the perplexed look on O'Donnell's face show he's not quite sure what "it" is. Replays do little to clear it up.
65 min: A long ball out to Grothe on the wing is not anticipated by the winger, and another attacking set from the Eels comes undone early.
66 min: A rare mistake for Thurston here as he kicks the ball out on the full. Eels to have the ball in decent field position. Whether they can do anything with it remains to be seen.
67 min: Second best result possible for Parramatta, forcing a goal-line dropout and getting another opportunity to make the scoreline look a bit more respectable.
69 min: The Cowboys defence holds strong, forcing Grothe out over the sideline.
70 min: PENALTY - Cowboys: A silly, silly penalty here by Parramatta. The Cowboys keep the ball in the scrum as long as possible, and by the time it is cleared out, there are no Eels left in the scrum, all having broken early.
75 min: VIDEO REF - Possible Cowboys Try...
75 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Relative unknown Anthony Watts caps a fine game from the bench with the first try of his NRL career. Tronc, in being held up in a tackle, gets stripped of the ball. While everyone is standing around, waiting for the referee to make his call, Watts pounces on the ball and races 30 metres untouched for the try. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 38-10
78 min: TRY Parramatta Eels Parramatta finally make use of an attacking set, sending Tautai over in the corner for his first try in first grade. Conversion attempt by Luke Burt unsuccessful. North Queensland Cowboys 38-14
FULL TIME And it's full time here, with the Cowboys having run the cleaners through the Eels, running out winners 38 points to 14.