A slick attacking performance by the North Queensland Cowboys proved the difference as the Newcastle Knights suffered a comprehensive 28-2 loss at 1300SMILES Stadium on Monday night.
In a match controlled by the home side led by five-eighth Johnathan Thurston and fullback Michael Morgan, the Knights struggled for field possession and on the back of basic errors and penalties it showed on the scoreboard.
The 26-point defeat leaves Newcastle stranded in second-last position on the ladder after five rounds.
On a positive note for the Club, back-rower Beau Scott was a standout in a beaten side with his strong running game and brutal defence and youngsters Korbin Sims and Adam Clydsdale looked promising.
The Knights will now have to regroup for a crucial round six clash against the Raiders in Canberra on Saturday afternoon at 3pm.
Newcastle named an unchanged line-up for this match, with prop Zane Tetevano dropping off an extended bench.
The Knights haven’t beaten the Cowboys in Townsville in two seasons, but they provided plenty of hope in the opening exchanges with their desire.
Newcastle controlled possession on the back of strong charges from prop Willie Mason, winger James McManus and centre Joey Leilua,
This allowed the men in red-and-blue to take an early 2-0 lead in the 6th minute following a penalty goal to halfback Tyrone Roberts.
North Queensland were completing all their sets in the first 12 minutes, but poor ball control was letting them down.
Luckily for the Cowboys though, Leilua threw a wayward pass over the sideline in the 13th minute when the Knights were deep on attack.
The home side had a chance to take the lead in the 15th minute, but the Knights defence held strong forcing an error.
North Queensland finally took the lead in the 18th minute following a pinpoint kick from halfback Robert Lui.
Lui put up a perfect chip for winger Matt Wright to cross in the corner.
Thurston added the extras from the sideline to give the Cowboys a 6-2 lead after 20 minutes.
North Queensland was full of running following their opening try and went the length of the field in the following set to score a brilliant team try via veteran centre Brent Tate.
Tate finished off a freakish play, where fullback Michael Morgan managed to kick a pass into the hands of Tate to cross for a four-pointer.
Thurston missed the conversion, but it was the Cowboys with a handy 10-2 advantage after 23 minutes.
North Queensland were looking sharp in attack and extended their lead in the 28th minute when Morgan darted over off a classy Thurston pass.
The Test and Origin star converted the try to give the Cowboys a comfortable 16-2 lead with 10 remaining in the first half.
Uate made a crucial error seven minutes from the break by losing control of the ball on a kick return.
Fortunately for the Knights though, the Cowboys converted the opportunity.
Newcastle had a chance to hit back on the stroke of halftime, but couldn’t get over the line following a knock-on by Boyd.
This enabled the Cowboys to head to the sheds with a strong 16-2 lead.
The Knights had the dream start to the second half when Scott forced an error from Cowboys forward Ashton Sims 30 metres out from his own line.
Newcastle peppered North Queensland’s line, but were unable to make the most of the chance following a basic error by Roberts.
The Cowboys were in complete control and would have extended their lead in the 47th minute if it weren’t for a brilliant tackle by Boyd to deny Ray Thompson.
North Queensland retained possession though and fullback Morgan did it all himself with a kick, chase and regather to score.
Thurston added the extras to give the Cowboys a commanding 22-2 lead with 32 minutes remaining in the match.
The home side looked to have scored the 58th minute, but Lui was ruled accidently offside.
There was no doubt over the next Cowboys try though, with replacement hooker Ray Thompson doing it all himself with a potent run from 35 metres out.
Thurston converted from out wide to give his team a big 28-2 buffer with 17 minutes left on the clock.
Cowboys forward Tariq Sims was all but over the line in the 75th minute, but Roberts came up with a clever one-on-one steal at the death to deny the four-pointer.
The Knights never gave up, but on the night they were no match for a strong North Queensland side.
Newcastle Knights 2 (P: Roberts 1/1)
North Queensland Cowboys 28 (T: Morgan 2, Wright, Tate, Thompson, G: Thurston 4/5)