Having been at the forefront of criticism regarding the Cowboys poor start to 2018, Johnathan Thurston has shown his class to lead North Queensland to a much-needed 26-14 win over the Gold Coast in a match played in front of 12,885 supporters at 1300SMILES Stadium.
In a game that lacked finesse as a result of 23 errors and penalties, the Cowboys showed glimpses of the form predicted of them following last season's miracle run, while after claiming some impressive scalps in recent weeks, the Titans were made to pay for a lack of fundamentals in a performance best left forgotten.
In a first half punctuated by errors and penalties, both sides struggled to establish a great deal of fluency in attack with penalty goals dictating the majority of scoring over the first 30 minutes.
After an obstruction denied Justin O'Neill first points after just three minutes, Titans fullback Michael Gordon gave the visitors a shortly lived lead via a penalty goal, while a trio of Gold Coast infringements allowed Thurston to establish a 6-2 lead with eight minutes left in the first half.
With the first half seemingly destined for a lacklustre finish, the Cowboys broke with the erratic pacing to post a try through Ben Hampton in the 35th minute, while after failing to clean up a bomb, the opportunity to extend the lead further enabled Kyle Feldt to finish off a well-worked right side shift with two seconds left before the change of ends.
In desperate need to reverse a poor first half, a consistent regression from the visitors culminated in Jarrod Wallace conceding a penalty 15 minutes into the second half for dissent that shortly after extinguished any chance of a Gold Coast comeback.
Moments after Wallace's indiscretion, the Cowboys halfback stepped up to deliver Jason Taumalolo (56th minute) an exquisite passage to the tryline and by the time Coen Hess (62nd minute) crashed over moments later the scoreboard had blown out to 26-2 with a quarter of the match remaining.
Having reaped the benefits of the Titans diabolical ball handling and discipline, the Cowboys relented in the final stages to concede two tries to Ashley Taylor (72nd minute) and Wallace (75th minute), however any chance of an upset was short-lived as time ran out for the visitors.
Remaining in second last on the premiership ladder despite the result ending a run of five straight losses, the only major downside of the victory for coach Paul Green to contend with was a shoulder injury sustained by John Asiata early in the second half. With initial diagnosis suggesting the Samoan utility sustained a dislocated shoulder, further scans will be required to ascertain the full extent of the injury, however it appears certain that the premiership winner will spend time on the sidelines.
Hosting the Raiders in Townsville next Saturday night, the Cowboys will be looking to continue their winning ways, while the Titans will return to Robina for the first time since Round 1 as they host the Sharks in the twilight of Saturday night.