North Queensland Cowboys got off the mark for the season by beating Canterbury Bulldogs 24-16 in the first NRL game behind closed doors on Thursday.
Cowboys forward Jason Taumalolo was in formidable form as he ran for 345 metres and scored one of North Queensland’s four tries, all of which came in the first half of a game that was played without fans at ANZ Stadium due to restrictions on mass gatherings in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
It was a second successive defeat for the Bulldogs, who took the lead inside five minutes when Lachlan Lewis dived over after Nick Meaney broke away on the left.
The Cowboys hit back with two tries in five minutes. Coen Hess powered through before Scott Drinkwater’s brilliant dummy created a gap he darted through to put the visitors in front.
Ben Hampton touched down after receiving a brilliant cut-out pass from Valentine Holmes and the Bulldogs were reduced to 12 men when Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was sin-binned for a professional foul in the 28th minute.
Taumalolo ensured the Cowboys took advantage, exchanging passes with Francis Molo before barrelling over in irrepressible fashion.
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Renouf To’omaga scored his first NRL try six minutes after the restart to give Canterbury hope, but they continued to make too any errors to work their way back.
They only managed to add to their tally when Christian Crichton punished an error from Holmes, whose penalty provided the Cowboys’ only points of the second half, by touching down a pinpoint kick from debutant Jake Averillo with seconds left on the clock.