The Cowboys' department of youth was on show again as Jeremiah Nanai and Heilum Luki played starring roles in a 30-4 win over the Titans in Townsville on Saturday night.
With Nanai running amok on the right edge and Luki on the left, the Cowboys look a completely different side to the one that managed just seven wins last year and finished 15th.
Fullback Scott Drinkwater and centre Val Holmes were also on song as the Cowboys turned a 16-4 lead into a dominant 26-point victory.
The Cowboys got off to a fast start with a try in the sixth minute after Val Holmes attracted two defenders and found Murray Taulagi who sent the ball back inside for Tom Dearden to race away and score.
Dearden adds to his 2022 account
On the back of a penalty and six-again call in quick succession the Titans hit back when David Fifita threw the final pass for fullback Jamayne Isaako to score in the 15th minute.
The home side stretched their lead to 12-4 in the 20th minute when a Scott Drinkwater grubber rebounded to Taulagi who plunged over for his third try of the season.
Kyle Feldt looked to have put the Cowboys further in front soon after but the try was denied due to obstruction in the lead-up by Nanai.
Isaako hits back for the Titans
It was only a temporary reprieve for the Titans who continued to invite the Cowboys into good field position with poor ball control and were made to pay in the 32nd minute when Drinkwater scored a superb solo try from a scrum 30 metres out.
The sin binning of Nanai for a dangerous tackle in 53rd minute handed the Titans a chance to eat into the 12-point deficit but their handling again let them down and the one-man advantage was squandered.
Luki scores a barn-storming try
Nanai returned to the field and made an immediate impact with a sensational leap to pull down a Chad Townsend bomb and the Cowboys were home at 22-4.
A penalty goal to Holmes with 10 minutes remaining extended the lead to 20 points and the Cowboys had locked up their fourth win of the season.
Luki then got in on the action with a barnstorming try of his own in the 72nd minute and the embarrassment was complete for the Titans.
Apart from some exhilarating attack it's the Cowboys' defensive resolve that will most please coach Todd Payten.
After leaking 32 points per game last season the Cowboys are giving up just 13 points per game in 2022.
Match: Cowboys v Titans
Round 7 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- Jason Taumalolo racked up plenty of running metres (104) as he always does but it was his offloading that really hurt the Titans in the first half.
- The Cowboys are one of only five sides to have conceded less than 100 points in 2022. The other four - Panthers, Storm, Roosters and Rabbitohs - have all played one less game.
- Titans late inclusion Kevin Proctor's discipline let him down in the opening five minutes as he conceded two penalties to hand the Cowboys field position to open the scoring.
- The Cowboys have won nine of their past 10 games against the Titans in Townsville.
- Jeremiah Nanai has scored six tries in his past six games.
- Veteran winger Kyle Feldt ran for 166 metres in another classy display. Feldt, Taumalolo and Jake Granville are the only three remaining members of the club's 2015 premiership side and may well have their sights set on another one.
Play of the Game
Scott Drinkwater produced a moment of magic eight minutes before half-time when he picked the ball up at the back of a scrum 30 metres out and set off on a diagonal run which bamboozled the Titans defence and sent the Cowboys faithful into a frenzy. The flashy fullback threw three dummies and left three defenders clutching at thin air as he sliced through to score the Cowboys' third try of the night. He may be warming the No.1 seat for Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow but there's no doubt coach Todd Payten will need to find a spot for Drinkwater based on his sizzling form.
Scott Drinkwater is a magician
What They Said
"For six games we've worked really hard and competed hard and fallen just short but today we were blown away. We didn't come up with anything with the ball and they did and that's why we were on the back foot. We've got to keep working hard. We were a million miles off tonight. We've played seven games and this was the only one we've been a million miles off. No one's happy about it." - Titans coach Justin Holbrook
"We showed a lot of character tonight. We kept a really potent attacking team down to four points. We defended for 10 minutes with 12 players. I'm loving the commitment that the team is showing to each other in the hard parts of the game and that's why we are sitting here smiling." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten
NRL Press Conference: Cowboys v Titans - Round 7, 2022
The Cowboys make the journey from Townsville to Darwin to face the Eels on Saturday night. The last time the two sides met at TIO Stadium was in 2018 when the Eels got home 20-14.
The Titans face a huge test against the Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday and should have livewire Jayden Campbell (ribs) back on deck.