[Source: NRL News]
Five tries between wingers Semi Valemei and Murray Taulagi led the Cowboys to a stunning 45-20 victory over the Storm in Townsville.
The scores were locked at 14-14 at the break but it was North Queensland with their season on the line who laid on five tries in the second half to stun the Storm juggernaut with an attacking masterclass.
Mid-season recruit Valemei shone in his first game as a Cowboy, replacing veteran winger Kyle Feldt’s regular spot on the right-edge, showing his pace and skill to finish off a dominant attacking display from playmakers Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden.
Languishing in 16th place, the Cowboys needed to break their losing streak if they hope to turn the corner on their season and with the help of returning Maroons – Tom Dearden, Valentine Holmes, Jeremiah Nanai, Reuben Cotter and Taulagi – Todd Payten’s side stood up in front of the Cowboys faithful on Sunday afternoon.
The Cowboys got off to a flying start with some slick attacking sets setting up Raiders recruit Valemei with back-to-back tries in his first eight minutes a Cowboy.
But come the 22nd minute and the Storm were quick to expose the poor defence seen from the Cowboys right-edge this season, with Nick Meaney looping a pass to winger Xavier Coates who crossed the line almost untouched.
Yet the home side were quick to make Melbourne pay for a costly handling error with Tom Dearden and Scott Drinkwater combining to put Origin star Valentine Holmes through for North Queensland’s third try. Holmes couldn’t convert his own try, leaving the score 14-6.
But coach Todd Payten wasn’t smiling for long when Melbourne’s left edge once again left Cowboys defenders in their wake, with powerhouse Justin Olam crossing the line before leaving the field for a HIA. A Meaney penalty goal three minutes later brought the scores level 14-14 at the break.
Making it a club debut to remember, Valemei crossed for a hattrick in the opening minutes of the second half. With Coates knocking a looping pass into the hands of Hiku who put the young winger through in the corner to make it three.
But Cowboys flyer Taulagi couldn’t let the right edge have all the fun and powered on to the end of a Holmes pass to cross in the left corner. Holmes conversion made it 26-14.
While Meaney crossed again for Melbourne, a double from Taulagi followed by Nanai crossing for one of his own was enough to put the home side in a comfortable 18-point lead with fifteen minutes to play.
But it was Townsend who iced the Round 14 win after Hiku broke the line down the right-edge before finding the skipper who crashed over the line for North Queensland’s eighth.