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The North Queensland Cowboys turned around some early season poor form to thrash the Gold Coast Titans 32-18 tonight in Townsville in front of a crowd of 15551.
Ty Williams, Carl Webb and Anthony Laffranchi were ruled out in the lead-up to the game and Williams's replacement Shannon Gallant was sensational in his Cowboys debut.
Johnathan Thurston was, as usual, in absolutely everything scoring a try and not missing a goal and newcomer Ray Thompson was impressive as Thurston's partner.
The early stages of the match were sloppy but dominated by the big men, who appeared to run themselves to a stand still which set the tone for the rest of the match, allowing the little men to bounce around the tiring forwards.
Willie Mason and Matthew Scott were the pick of the Cowboys forwards while the entire Cowboys backline were nothing short of fantastic.
The Titans best is hard to peg but it was likely Luke Bailey who ran for 134 metres making 13 hit-ups in a great performance. Joseph Tomane had a shocker in defense allowing Willie Tonga around him for three tries. Mark Minichiello scored twice but they were both as easy as falling over the line.
The loss of Scott Prince looks to be a grave issue for the Titans as for most of the game they were shapeless and their tries only really came from sleepy Cowboys defense. Their job gets no easier as they take on Melbourne next week while the Cowboys host the Wests Tigers in Townsville.
North Queensland Cowboys 32 defeated Gold Coast Titans 18
National Rugby League - NRL - Round 4 - Saturday April 3, 2010 7:30pm
Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium
Referee: Steve Lyons and Alan Shortall
Video Referee: Chris Ward Touch Judges: Daniel Eastwood and Ricky McFarlane
Halftime: North Queensland Cowboys 18 Gold Coast Titans 6
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (32)
Tries: Luke O'Donnell, Johnathan Thurston, Willie Tonga (3)
Conversions: Johnathan Thurston (5/5)
Penalty Goals: Johnathan Thurston (1/1)
GOLD COAST TITANS (18)
Tries: Mark Minichiello (2), Sam Tagataese
Conversions: Mat Rogers (3/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary For the Cowboys debutant Leeson Ah Mau has been brought onto the bench to replace Carl Webb, who will instead be playing QLD cup and fullback Ty Williams has been ruled out with a biceps injury with former Wests Tiger Shannon Gallant making his Cowboys debut in jumper 20. Under 20's halfback Ray Thompson will also be making his first NRL appearance for 2010 tonight at five-eighth. Winger Will Tupou also makes his first grade debut.
For the Titans Anthony Laffranchi is out of the side, with Sam Tagataese moving into the starting lineup and Michael Henderson being added to the bench. 1 min: Johnathan Thurston gets us underway here at Dairy Farmers Staidum in Townsville. Luke Bailey crashing into the solid Cowboys defense on the return.
3 min: Cowboys go close through Scott Bolton but his last pass option was found wanting and the Titans recover the ball metres from their own tryline.
5 min: Again the Cowboys on the back of a tackle count restart go close but a pressure pass from Aaron Payne is put down by Luke O'Donnell. Titans survive again.
5 min: Titans receive a pressure relieving penalty inside their own half. The penalty kick finds them down inside the Cowboys half for the first time.
7 min: This time the Titans put it down while on the attack. Tomane putting down a cut out pass while under heavy pressure from the Cowboys defense.
8 min: Johnathan Thurston saves a certain try with a last ditch ankle tap on Joseph Tomane. Tomane brushed off several defenders and headed down the right hand touchline but as Thurston was falling he threw out the backhand and Tomane tripped over the sideline.
10 min: Titans give away a silly penalty late in the Cowboys tackle count right on halfway. The Cowboys deep on the attack with a full set up their sleeve.
12 min: Cowboys show some enterprising play, throwing the ball around with abandon but it all comes to naught as Thompson is caught on the last by Luke Bailey and Greg Bird three metres from the tryline. The Titans moments later receive another penalty and the ensuing penalty kick finds them forty metres out from their own line.
14 min: Cowboys put it down on the last while trying a wrap around play thirty out from the Titans tryline.The Titans then receive ANOTHER penalty to get into the Cowboys half.
15 min: Titans drop the ball twenty out from the Cowboys tryline. Aaron Payne hands it straight back with a knock on in the next set, thirty out. Titans on the attack again. Poor handling and discipline from both sides so far.
17 min: TRY
Mark Minichiello strolls through a gap the size of Sydney Harbour and scores next to the uprights. Matt Scott comes out of the line creating a huge hole that Luke Bailey puts Minichiello through. Minichiello had no trouble brushing Gallant off and scores.
Gold Coast Titans 6-0
19 min: Cowboys get a penalty thirty five out from the Titans tryline. Willie Mason preparing to enter the game.
20 min: Will Tupou drops the ball but the sideline official informs the ref that Greg Bird had his hand in the play the ball. Replays suggest it was a bad call. Cowboys repeat set ten out. Luke O'Donnell drops the ball two tackles later relieving all pressure.
24 min: William Zillman makes a break up the middle and tries to chip it over Shannon Gallants head, Gallant plucks it out of the sky with one hand and runs it back downfield to where Zillman came from. Amazing play there.
26 min: TRY
Minichiello puts it down on his own thirty metre line and one tackle later the Cowboys spread it and Willie Tonga scores in the left corner. Thurston kicks it from the sideline bouncing it off the right hand upright. Six all in Dairy Farmers.
29 min: Cowboys make it all the way downfield from the kick off but the Anthony Watts kick for Will Tupou is knocked touch in goal from the debutant. Titans optional restart from the twenty.
32 min: Wille Tonga hit hard and is down on his haunches in backplay.
33 min: TRY
O'Donnell looked to have bombed a great set-up from youngster Ray Thompson but instead of getting it to the two unmarked men on his right he carries three defenders over the line with him and scores a good try.
37 min: Shannon Gallant makes it fifty metres down-field from the kick return. Great run. Cowboys on the attack now.
38 min: TRY
Good lead up work from Johnathan Thurston and Shannon Gallant hands Willie Tonga a double. Gallant looking very solid at the back at the moment. The Titans starting to look a bit lost out there.
40 min: Half time here at Dairy Farmers and the Cowboys are leading the Titans 18-6. The first twenty was very scrappy from both teams with the big boys running themselves ragged early. This allowed the little men like Johnathan Thurston and Shannon Gallant to begin to get some room around the ruck in the back end of the half and as a result the Cowboy blews the score out a bit. Ray Thompson has been good after a quiet start and Willie Mason seems to be growing in confidence.
For the Titans Zillman looks most likely but they have had very little ball in the back end of the half. I dare say John Cartwright will be screaming at them to hold the ball in the second half or this could end up ugly.
40 min: Some half time stats.
Cowboys have had 54% of possession. Cowboys have completed 15 of 22 and the Titans just 11 of 18. The Titans have spent 66% of the time in their own half. Linebreaks favour the Cowboys 6-3 and the Titans have missed 17 tackles to the Cowboys 7.
40 min: For the Cowboys Matt Scott has already made 80 metres in only one half of football. Other metre eaters have been Scott Bolton with 66 and Luke O'Donnell with 65. In the backs Willie Tonga has ran for 102 metres and Shannon Gallant for 139.
For the Titans, Luke Bailey has ran for 79 metres and William Zillman for 87.
The second half is about to get underway.
42 min: PENALTY GOAL
Johnathan Thurston kicks a penalty goal after Friend takes him out in general play after a kick.
North Queensland Cowboys 20-6
44 min: Willie Mason tries to catch it out of the hands of Shannon Gallant off the kick off and drops it cold. Strange, strange play.
45 min: Anthony Watts runs 50 metres downfield from a drop ball. Cowboys heavily on attack.
46 min: Great grubber from Ray Thompson gets Cowboys a repeat set.
48 min: Thurston somehow gets a grubber away under huge pressure and gets ANOTHER repeat set.
49 min: Titans survive after Ashley Graham knocks a bomb forward. Good defense there.
50 min: TRY
Against the run of play the Titans score following good lead up work from Nathan Friend. Tagataese scores in the corner. Both Titans tries have looked very easy. Just not enough of them.
52 min: Joseph Tomane knocks off after a fumbled restart and offload from Harrison. Cowboys on attack.
53 min: Ashley Graham crashes over in the corner but it looks like Kevin Gordon may have shoved him over the sideline. Video Referee decision pending. No try is the call. In my opinion it was the correct decision.
54 min: TRY
Tagataese drops the ball off the restart and the Cowboys shift it left to Willie Tonga who busts pass a stumbling Joseph Tomane and scores. That's three for Tonga.
56 min: The other debutant Leeson Ah Mau is on the field for the Cowboys.
58 min: Gallant dives on the ball putting his body on the line and received a boot to the face as Bird tries to toe it through. Nice defense from the little man.
59 min: Huge hit from Ah Mau on Ashley Harrison. Welcome to first grade Leeson Ah Mau. Nice work.
61 min: Luke O'Donnell hits William Zillman high on the Titans goal line giving them a penalty. That's the second time O'Donnell has went high on Zillman. If he does it a third he might be off for ten.
62 min: The Titans look shapeless without Scott Prince. This game is the Cowboys' to lose.
66 min: Scrappy play on the Cowboys last, I honestly don't know what went on there but suffice to say that the Titans get the changeover.
67 min: The dumbest penalty of the game goes to Antonio Kaufusi. He looked like he was having a nap on Mat Rogers there.
68 min: TRY
Mark Minichiello walks through the defense AGAIN. The Cowboys look good in defense except for on the odd occasion STANDING STILL and letting the Titans walk past them over the tryline. Video Referee checking on a knock on. He awards the try.
69 min: The Cowboys shouldn't be only eight ahead but some sleepy defense has kept the Titans in this game. An interesting last ten minutes is to follow. David Mead puts it down and the Cowboys are back on the attack. I can't read this game. It's ad-lib football at it's most strange.
71 min: Luke Bailey saves a certain try to the Cowboys catching an inside ball and unfortunately knocking it on. Cowboys still on the attack with a scrum ten out.
72 min: TRY
Shannon Gallant, Ray Thompson and Johnathan Thurston combine and Thurston goes over untouched. To the video ref we go to check obstruction. So we have a lucky dip from the video ref here I guess. He gives the Cowboys the lollipop on this occasion.
75 min: Referee gives the Titans a penalty as Willie Mason hits a slipping Kevin Gordon in the head about 1 foot off the ground.
76 min: David Mead struggles over the try line. Video Ref is called in yet again. No try, obviously, I thought that the touchie about a metre away could have seen that one.
80 min: Full time at Dairy Farmers and the Cowboys win 32-18. Awesome performance really by the replacement brigade, Ray Thompson and Shannon Gallant. Thurston was in everything as usual. 32-18 is much closer than these two sides were. The three Titans tries were very easy ones.