North Queensland have made the most of having Johnathan Thurston during State of Origin by scoring a sorely needed 26-12 NRL win over Manly.
Thurston had previously never been available before an Origin match in his Cowboys career, but played a hand in three of their four tries to help snap a worrying three-game losing streak.
His night was more than matched by Jason Taumalolo, who carried the Cowboys with 268 metres, 12 tackle busts and a try in a heroic 80-minute performance in the absence of a number of their forwards.
The Cowboys had six players either on Origin duty, injured, or suspended.
Manly, who were without the Trbojevic brothers, appeared set for a comeback when Brian Kelly scurried over to reduce an eight-point halftime deficit to four with the first try after resumption.
But the visitors made the most of a wasteful Sea Eagles side in the second half, with Antonio Winterstein completing his double and then Enari Tuala crossing in the space of four minutes.
The win ends a heartbreaking fortnight for the Cowboys, who had fallen to one-point losses in back-to-back weeks, but now moves them to within six points of the top eight.
The defeat for the Sea Eagles leaves them in 12th spot on eight points.
Both sides traded early penalty goals before the Cowboys potted over another when Thurston was belted by Gosiewski after passing the ball.
The shot drew another tirade from Channel Nine commentator Andrew Johns, just a week after he called a similar tackle on Thurston by Melbourne prop Sam Kasiano as “cowardly”.
Kasiano was only suspended for a week.
“Imagine the toll it’s taken on his body and he gets hit behind with a shoulder charge like that. I hate it. Get it out of the game. Give them suspensions and it will stop, long suspensions,” Johns said.
The incident seemed to spur the Eagles into action, with Shaun Lane spinning over for a try.
However the Cowboys hit back with consecutive efforts set up by Thurston, who grubbered for Taumalolo and then showed quick hands for Winterstein to take a 16-8 halftime lead.
There was a scary moment late in the match when Lane was knocked out after an offload, while Gosiewski exited the match in the final minute with a suspected arm injury.
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