North Queensland have continued their march towards a NRL top-four finish with a thrilling 40-26 home derby win over rivals Brisbane.
Scott Drinkwater had a hand in three of the Cowboys’ six tries on Saturday as a late flurry from the Broncos kept the strong sell-out Townsville crowd on the edge of their seats.
The hosts outscored their rivals five tries to three in the second stanza, but when Corey Oates crossed for his second of the game and Selwyn Cobbo charged over from dummy-half the margin was just eight points with four minutes to play.
In their final attack in Cowboys territory, Pat Carrigan knocked on and from the resulting set Murray Taulagi put the icing on the cake with the host’s sixth try of the night.
The Cowboys have now won 10 of their last 11 games and scored at least 28 points in their last nine victories. The win also sealed their first ever 4-0 sweep over Queensland sides since Gold Coast joined the NRL in 2007.
Drinkwater was instrumental and continued his impressive season to lead all Cowboys in try assists; his lofted pass to the returning Kyle Feldt the pick of the lot.
“He’s taken his game to another level,” Cowboys coach Todd Payten said of Drinkwater’s impact this season.
“Thought he made some really good decisions tonight with the ball in his hands.
“He’s going really well and it’s off the back of his hard work.”
Valentine Holmes moved to the top of the point-scorers list kicking six from six. The centre also ran for a team-high 153 metres while Jason Taumalolo was powerful through the middle with 149 of his own.
Brisbane coach Kevin Walters said his side have “plenty to work on” in the back end of the season but overall, they were outplayed at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
The Broncos have won in just two of their last nine trips to Townsville.
After Billy Walters and Murray Taulagi tries were converted inside 15 minutes, two Holmes penalty goals bettered the one from Adam Reynolds to give the hosts a 10-8 halftime lead.
But Reynolds and playmaking partner Ezra Mam heaped pressure on their side with poor kicking that forwent valuable field position.
Reynolds kicked out on the full from a restart and handed the Cowboys two seven-tackle sets in the opening 40.
“It wasn’t good enough. Embarrassing by my standards,” Broncos captain Reynolds said.
“I’ll go back to training, work hard on it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”