Johnathan Thurston finally comes through for Cowboys
Johnathan Thurston's shift to the No.6 jumper finally came up trumps for North Queensland as the State of Origin and Test star orchestrated a 22-6 NRL win over Canberra on Monday night.
Thurston threw the final pass for three of the Cowboys' four tries - laying on another double for winger Ashley Graham who took his tally to six tries from the opening five rounds.
It was a costly night for the Raiders with prop Brett White's season almost certainly over, after he suffered a suspected torn ACL when his left foot appeared to get caught in the Canberra Stadium surface on 20 minutes.
The former NSW Origin star was taken to the sheds on the back of a medicab, where he was soon joined by back-rower Joel Thompson with an ankle injury - that pair joining an injured brigade that already includes Josh Dugan and Shaun Fensom.
Moved to five-eighth in a bid to add some unpredictability to the Cowboys attack, Thurston struggled to make an impact over the opening four rounds of the competition.
But his effort against the Raiders was an ominous warning for not only North Queensland's NRL rivals but also NSW Origin coach Ricky Stuart, with Thurston set to move to pivot in the representative arena as well to accommodate Melbourne playmaker Cooper Cronk at halfback.
For so long an institution on the left edge of the attack, Thurston's three try assists all came down the right edge - including the opener for Brent Tate after just ten minutes.
A Matthew Bowen 40-20 provided the impetus for Graham's first on the half hour, and it was a carbon copy seven minutes after the restart for a commanding 16-0 lead.
Halfback Ray Thompson, who combined impressively with Thurston throughout the match, sealed the result with an individual effort on 54 minutes, before Sam Mataora ensured the home side didn't get shut out when he charged over ten minutes from time.
North Queensland's James Tamou and Canberra's Shaun Berrigan were both put on report for high tackles, though neither is likely to catch the attention of the match review committee.
Cowboys coach Neil Henry praised the turnaround after a lacklustre loss to Cronulla last weekend.
"Our attack was poor last week against the Sharks, we had plenty of field position against them but didn't get over the line," Henry said.
"We worked hard on it - credit to the boys, we executed some nice plays on that right edge and got some plays out wide."
Thurston did his best to deflect any praise onto his teammates despite his stellar showing.
"I think it was the best team performance - our forward pack did a really good job on their forward pack," Thurston said.
"When you're a halfback or a five-eighth, playing off momentum makes your job so much easier."
Canberra coach David Furner admitted the loss of two forwards was a tough blow to overcome.
"I said to the group I'm not looking to blame injuries, I think we've got to look at the start ... (but) we were just holding on there at the end," Furner said.
"We lost far too much energy in our middle, those injuries hurt us a little bit."