Townsville lived up to its tropical climate as the North Queensland Cowboys began the post-Thurston era with a 24-12 defeat against the St George Illawarra Dragons who themselves were looking to put a rocky off-season behind them.
The Cowboys had the field position and attacking momentum for the first ten minutes however it was the Dragons who were able to turn on the points with some strong counter-attacking play. The Cowboys continuously coughed up possession and a drop ball was picked up by Corey Norman who got up to halfway on the counter. The next play, the Dragons took advantage of the backtracking Cowboys defence and Euan Aitken went through to score.
The momentum switched around yet again as the Dragons continued hand the ball over to the Cowboys with simple errors deep in their own half. Turning field position and possession into points wasn't coming easily for the home side but as the heavens opened, the try line did as well as Javid Bowen crossed for opening points in the corner. Although, the points eventually came it was a nervous wait for the Cowboys fans after Ben Cummins initially ruled a live decision of no try before it was awarded by the bunker. The Cowboys then added their second try in the seconds before half-time when Nene McDonald was able to get down low and get a try against his old side and after Kahu missed his second conversion, the Cowboys took an 8-6 lead to the break.
The second half started with dominance from the Dragons as they forced the Cowboys into error after error, however like their opponents in the first half, they couldn't turn possession and field position into points. The Cowboys were able to withstand the pressure and eventually turn it around after John Asiata made a good break through the middle before holding the ball up to Michael Morgan who was flashing through to score next to the posts.
The Cowboys then again added to the Dragons woes through the middle when Jason Taumalolo ran through the middle after receiving a great offload from Jordan McLean and before finding Te Maire Martin who scored next to the upright. The rains continued to tumble as the Cowboys kept pushing through searching for more points, although it was the Dragons who had the best chance next as Tariq Sims went close to the line but dropped the ball.
Both sides ended up adding points in the final five minutes with Michael Morgan setting up Justin O'Neill with a try off a nice grubber through the Dragons line, whilst the Red ‘V' added a try down the left in the final minute off the back of a scrum. The last-minute try put some respectability into the score for the Dragons who went down 24-12.
Next weekend, the North Queenslanders travel south to Brisbane for a Friday night clash with the Broncos, whilst the Dragons make an appearance on Thursday when they take on South Sydney at Kogarah.