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A herculean effort from Jason Taumalolo has seen the North Queensland Cowboys prevail 24-16 over the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
Running for 345 metres to break the NRL record for the most metres by a forward - surpassing Steve Price's 323 metre haul for the Warriors in 2007 - Taumalolo was enormous for the visitors in a match played behind closed doors in accordance with the national COVID-19 guidelines.
Establishing a 22-6 lead at the change of ends before taking the foot of the peddle in the second half, the score line failed to illustrate the Cowboys' dominance over the Bulldogs - who committed 16 errors to finish with an unacceptable 62% completion rate.
Coming out of the blocks with a 40/20 in the opening set to Lachlan Lewis, the Bulldogs number seven was in the right spot a few moments later to put the home side up 6-0 following a lovely burst down the left edge by Nick Meaney.
Hitting back through Coen Hess (12th minute) after a well-time pass from Michael Morgan, the visitors took the lead when Scott Drinkwater (17th minute) left Joe Stimson gasping for air from a scrum.
Adding a third try through makeshift winger Ben Hampton (25th minute), the Cowboys managed to take advantage of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak being sent to the sin bin as Taumalolo (36th minute) crashed over next to the posts to complete the first half rout.
Needing to be first to score after halftime to have any chance of mounting a comeback, a terrific short pass from Adam Elliott sent interchange forward Renouf To'omaga (45th minute) over for his first try in the top grade.
Making an error from the kick-off, Bulldogs coach Dean Pay responded to his side's poor ball handling by replacing Lewis midway through the second half in favour of 19-year-old debutant Jake Averillo.
Establishing a 12-point buffer via a Valentine Holmes penalty (57th minute), Hess looked to bag his second of the night only for Averillo to force the second rower to extend the ball in an illegal double movement on the hour mark.
With the Cowboys unable to deliver a knock-out blow and the Bulldogs giving themselves no chance of mounting a comeback due to dismal ball handling, a consolation try to Christian Crichton (80th minute) on fulltime saw the score finish 24-16 in favour of the visitors.
Next week, the Bulldogs travel to Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday afternoon to take on the Tigers, while the Cowboys return to Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Saturday evening against the Eels
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 - North Queensland Cowboys 24
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Halftime Score: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6 North Queensland Cowboys 22
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Jason Taumalolo
2 points - Michael Morgan
1 points - Coen Hess
CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS (16)
Tries: Lachlan Lewis, Renouf To'omaga, Christian Crichton
Conversions: Brandon Wakeham (2/3)
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (24)
Tries: Coen Hess, Scott Drinkwater, Ben Hampton, Jason Taumalolo
Conversions: Valentine Holmes (3/4)
Penalty Goals: Valentine Holmes (1/1)