Cowboys overrun hapless Dragons for back-to-back wins
North Queensland have heaped more misery on St George Illawarra and coach Anthony Griffin, consigning the Dragons to a sixth straight defeat in a 42-22 NRL win in Townsville.
The visitors were blown away on Saturday in a 10-minute, first-half Cowboys blitz when they conceded three tries while having a player in the sin bin.
St George Illawarra had their second-half opportunities and found tries to Jaydn Su'a, Mikaele Ravalawa and Moses Suli but handling errors put an end to any chance of a comeback win in skipper Ben Hunt's milestone 300th game.
"Our execution was nowhere near where it needed to be," Griffin said.
"If we executed better and were just a little bit more patient we're going to get our chance to win the game through the 80 minutes.
"But we just never give ourselves a chance."
The Dragons' board is expected to meet on Tuesday as questions mount over Griffin's future as coach.
But where there is pressure on one side, the valve is slowly releasing on another.
North Queensland secured back-to-back wins for the first time this season with their home victory, and did so with defensive tenacity and attacking vigour.
Co-captain Chad Townsend was pleased the Cowboys responded after conceding early.
"We were able to go bang, bang, bang with a little bit of momentum and score a couple of tries," he said.
"I was really, really happy with the way that we stuck to the plan."
Those tries came when Jayden Sullivan spent 10 minutes in the sin bin midway through the first half.
With the scores level at 6-6 following early tries to Jack De Belin and Kyle Feldt, a short kick-off was gathered by booming second-rower Heilum Luki to send Feldt on his way down field on a 60m dash.
Sullivan found himself caught up in the tackle and was penalised for a professional foul which led to his sin-binning.
From there the Cowboys fired on all cylinders.
The ensuing set saw fullback Scott Drinkwater evade three tacklers and hand Jack Gosiewski a try in back-to-back weeks before a break by Townsend gave a flat-footed Luki some space on the right edge and he beat three Dragons players from a standing start for the Cowboys' third try.
Drinkwater's sleight of hand made it three tries with a man advantage in the 27th minute, reversing inside to Valentine Holmes from a set-play in midfield with the centre lobbing inside to Tom Dearden to dive over untouched.
Holmes, Dearden, Drinkwater and Townsend all had stellar opening halves but the true threat was Luki who provided spark, power and speed to their right edge.
The imposing second-rower hit the sheds with 109-run metres, one line break and five tackle breaks to go with his first try of the season.
Holmes slotted a 45-metre two-point field goal on the stroke of halftime as North Queensland equalled their highest total points score this season in the opening 40 minutes.
Luki, Feldt and Dearden all crossed again in the second half as North Queensland ran away with the game.