A North Queensland side, missing Michael Morgan, faced a much-rotated Gold Coast Titans side in Townsville, and the Cowboys were hoping to use their experience to their advantage.
The home side dominated the opening stages, camping deep in Titans territory, with multiple sets back-to-back.
After barraging the Gold Coast try-line, the spine of Valentine Holmes, Jake Granville and Scott Drinkwater linked up to shift the ball to winger Ben Hampton, who walked over in the corner. Holmes converted for a 6-0 lead.
After finally getting their hands on the ball, the Titans attempted to hit straight back to level the scores. Jai Arrow looked to bundle his way over after twisting and turning through a number of tackles but was held up.
Just two tackles later, Brian Kelly found himself with lots of work to do on the right-hand edge. He stepped off his right foot to leave Kyle Feldt grabbing at thin air and then left Holmes for dead to pick up the first try of the night for the visitors.
Ash Taylor converted to level the scores.
A second Cowboys try came just after the 20th minute, as Ash Taylor’s kick was gathered up Kyle Feldt, who then raced away into the Titan’s half. A quick play-the-ball allowed Scott Drinkwater to take advantage of the dogged defensive line to release Justin O’Neill who put the ball down over the line.
The back and forth continued, as Dale Copley raced down the left-hand wing, after being held down for too long by Mitchell Dunn, Henry Perenara sent the Cowboys man to the sin-bin.
Unfortunately for Justin Holbrook’s side, they couldn’t quite take advantage of the extra-man.
Just minutes later, Holmes and Drinkwater looked to attack the right edge of the Titan’s once more, with Ben Hampton crossing the line for the third try of the night. However, Holmes’ pass drifted forward and the scores remained 12-6.
Ash Taylor conceded a penalty just six minutes from half-time and Holmes converted to push the Cowboys ahead by eight.
HALF-TIME: North Queensland Cowboys 14-6 Gold Coast Titans
After a back and forth battle between the two sides at the start of the second half, the Cowboys finally took a grip of the game once more after a 40 metre run from Jason Taumalolo, and a repeat set, allowed Reece Robson to burrow over from a metre out to score.
Robson then picked up his second in as many minutes, after stepping out from dummy-half once more and scooted over from five metres out just to the right of the posts.
The Gold Coast Titans were struggling to keep up with the impressive Cowboys, who had picked up the pace around the hour mark.
After forcing a fifth goal-line drop-line, and picking up more penalties, Jason Taumalolo charged up within a metre of the Titans line, and the next tackle, Holmes and Drinkwater combined to set up Hampton for his second on the left edge.
With less than 10 minutes remaining, Justin Holbrook’s side were left clutching at straws as the Cowboys dominated the later stages of the game.
However, the Titans looked to pick up a consolation try. Coen Hess was penalised for holding down Moeaki Fotuaika in the tackle and was sent to the sin-bin.
Jamal Fogarty broke the line and dotted down for what looked like a try for the Gold Coast, but an obstruction in the build-up meant the play was brought back.
The Cowboys then punished the visitors once more, as Robson, Clifford and Holmes combined once again, this time on the right-hand edge. Kyle Feldt the recipient this time, as he picked up try number six for the home team.
Holmes converted to make it seven out of seven from the boot and end the game.
FULL-TIME: North Queensland Cowboys 36-6 Gold Coast Titans
North Queensland Cowboys
Holmes, Feldt, O’Neill, Marsters, Hampton, Drinkwater, Clifford, McGuire, Granville, McLean, Dunn, Hess, Taumalolo
Interchanges: Robson, Asiata, Wright, Molo
Tries: Hampton (2), O’Neill, Robson (2), Feldt
Goals: Holmes (7/7)
Sin-Bin: Dunn, Hess
Gold Coast Titans
Sami, Kelly, Copley, Peachey, Pearson, Taylor, Fogarty, Fotuaika, Peats, Lisone, Proctor, Hipgrave, Arrow
Interchanges: Clark, Whitbread, Wallace, Boyd
Referee: H. Perenara
Touch Judges: T. Roby, D. Oultram
Video Referee: B. Galea
Image Source: @NRL (Twitter)