The loss condemns the Roosters to their first wooden spoon since 1966 (and their fifth overall), and denied a fairytale exit for two departing Roosters in particular- coach Brad Fittler, and longtime back-rower Craig Fitzgibbon.
Fitzgibbon was chaired from the ground by team mates in an emotional scene after a doing a lap of honour after full-time.
The fairytale looked likely earlier on a lovely Sydney day after wingers Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Iwi Hauraki scored to give the Roosters a 10-0 lead inside the opening 10 minutes. North Queensland, themselves also condemned to a season without finals footy, had more attacking possession in the fist half, but were able to little with it due to a combination of Rooster defence and their own ineptitude.
Things looked even grimmer for the visitors after Willie Mason capped off a semi-spectacular movement with good backing-up to score a try that helped make it 16-0, but North Queensland got back in the contest just before half-time when Johnathan Thurston scored off a tap.
After half-time, though, it was mainly a different story, and it was no surprise that Thurston played a key role in making it so. Shortly after Ty Williams saved a Mitchell Pearce kick from being a 40/20, Thurston put Ashley Graham in to score, then soon after that, the Cowboys hit the lead when Thurston made a break and Williams scored off it.
The middle part of the second half was a somewhat tense struggle, but the Cowboys ensured the result by cutting loose with three tries in the final nine minutes. Thurston set up Shane Tronc from close range for the first try, then foolish-looking play fielding a kick from Anthony Minichiello gave Donald Malone the chance to set up Willie Tonga