There’s no place like home for North Queensland who edged out South Sydney 20-18 in an NRL thriller in Townsville on Saturday night.
And the loss could prove costly for both the Rabbitohs and Queensland ahead of Origin III, with forward Chris McQueen hobbling off with an ankle injury at the 51 minute mark.
The men from Townsville have been woeful on the road this year, hitting their lowest ebb on Monday when they were humbled by bottom-placed Newcastle – their seventh road loss of the year.
But 1300 Smiles Stadium has been a fortress and the Cowboys – spearheaded by Johnathan Thurston – proved it in a match that had plenty of feeling.
Thurston, playing his first game at halfback since 2011, ignited the Cowboys from the first whistle as he laid on two tries and had a hand in a third.
The representative playmaker ambushed the Rabbitohs as the Cowboys raced out to a 14-0 lead in less than nine minutes of action.
It started with a kick for winger Curtis Rona to bat back to centre Matthew Wright. Then a face ball put Tariq Sims over and a crisp pass to Kane Linnett led to an Antonio Winterstein try in the left corner.
A Winterstein fumble on his own tryline gifted the Rabbitohs field position and McQueen gobbled up an Adam Reynolds grubber to put the visitors on the board.
But the Cowboys hit back minutes later through some spectacular athleticism from Rona, who again batted the ball back for Wright.
Thurston missed the conversion, but nailed a penalty goal soon after to give his side a 20-6 halftime advantage.
Three penalties swung momentum back in South Sydney’s favour after the break as Jason Clark celebrated his birthday with a try under the sticks.
Greg Inglis seemed certain to score in the 66th minute, only stopped by a great one-on-one tackle from his opposite number Michael Morgan.
Ingis he got his result soon after, with John Sutton threading a perfect kick through the line for the rampaging fullback with Reynolds’ conversion narrowing the margin to just two.
Sam Burgess was a tower of power for the Rabbitohs, running 151 metres and making 46 tackles.
He was also involved in a number of heated exchanges between the Burgess and Sims brothers.