Cowboys lift and Thurston gets mojo back in defeat of Gold Coast
Last year's grand finalists North Queensland have snapped a five-game losing streak with a convincing 26-14 victory over Gold Coast in Townsville.
Unopposed: Jason Taumalolo scores under the black dot in Townsville.
Ben Hampton, Kyle Feldt, Jason Taumalolo and Coen Hess scored tries for the Cowboys, giving coach Paul Green exactly the boost he wanted after signing a new three-year contract.
Johnathan Thurston, helped by better play from his forwards, returned to form and was involved in each try, as well as being on hand to help deny Titans' scoring chances on several of occasions.
After an opening half-hour, littered by penalties and handling errors from both sides, Hampton scored his third try of the season five minutes before the interval after a neat combination between Hess and John Asiata.
With five seconds remaining in the half, Feldt added to the score, this time Hampton providing the last pass before the winger dived over in the right corner for a 16-2 halftime lead.
The Titans started the second half brightly but could not apply scoreboard pressure. Taumalolo made them pay, taking an inside pass from Thurston 25 metres out and jinking inside a tackle before racing between the uprights.
Hess powered through three attempted tackles to extend the lead. The Titans' scoreline was flattered by late tries to Ashley Taylor and Jarrod Wallace.
The only downside for the Cowboys, who move to just two wins out of the top eight, is a shoulder injury to Asiata.
Afterburners: Michael Morgan finds a gap in the Titans defence.
The defeat is the Titans' fourth of the season and their defence stands as the worst in the NRL, having conceded 197 points.
Thurston believed an improvement in discipline was key to the Cowboys ending their losing run.
"We had our backs against the wall but we'll take a win any way we can get it," Thurston told Fox Sports.
"I thought we started with a lot of energy. We were probably a bit over enthusiastic early with our ball control. It was scrappy – we had to fight for everything tonight.
Bend it like JT: Johnathan Thurston kicks a sideline conversion in his inimitable style.
"Our discipline's put us under the pump [during the bad run]. It was a lot better. It's a step in the right direction.
Titans coach Garth Brennan was angry his team did not play their best football until the game was lost.
"There's some positives the way we came together at the end," Brennan said.
"When we started to do things we've worked on, we looked like a football team. At other times, we looked rudderless.
"We're better than that. We will be better than that. We need to learn from that, feel the hurt we're hurting at the moment and turn up at home next week and put on a good performance for our fans."
The Titans host Cronulla next Saturday, while the Cowboys are at home later that evening to Canberra.
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