The Cowboys have recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this season with a comfortable 42-22 victory over the Dragons to spoil milestone man Ben Hunt's 300th NRL game.
A seven-minute first half flurry – which saw North Queensland run in three tries while Jayden Sullivan was in the sin bin – put the game beyond doubt early on with the Cowboys consigning the Dragons to their sixth straight defeat.
Having become just the 47th player to reach the 300-game mark, the night started in perfect fashion for Hunt, with the versatile veteran setting up Jack de Belin for the first points of the game after just three minutes.
It didn't take long for things to go awry, however, with the Cowboys soon hitting back as Chad Townsend and Kyle Feldt combined for the winger's eighth try in 10 games against the Red V to level the score at 6-6.
Sullivan's sin bin after holding down Feldt in the 19th minute would prove incredibly costly for Anthony Griffin's side, with Jack Gosiewski, Heilum Luki and Tom Dearden all crossing for tries while the Dragons tried to fight on valiantly with 12 men.
Gosiewski's try marked his first against his former club and second in as many weeks, while Luki's effort was his first since a long-term knee injury in 2022.
Holmes launches a two-pointer
Having caused havoc on the left edge throughout the opening 40 minutes, Valentine Holmes had one more moment of magic to come before the half-time siren sounded with a spectacular 45m two-point field goal pushing the hosts' lead out to 18 points.
While the Dragons continued to tinker with their spine, the Cowboys continued to pile on the points with Luki charging through a feeble tackle attempt to bag his second of the night off a clever short ball from Townsend.
Luki looking good
Hunt recorded his second try assist of the night in the 56th minute when Jaydn Su'a cleaned up a Scott Drinkwater error to score but it simply wasn't going to plan for the Dragons as their completion rate dropped below 70 percent.
Mikaele Ravalawa's runaway try against the run of play added some respectability to the scoreboard late on for the Dragons, but there was no denying the Cowboys their first run of consecutive wins for the year as Feldt put the icing on the cake as he swooped on an error to grab his second try of the night.
Moses Suli and Dearden would trade tries in the final minutes of the game with Holmes landing his sixth conversion from seven attempts to make it 42-22.
Match: Cowboys v Dragons
Round 11 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
- The Cowboys won consecutive games for the first time in 2023.
- Dragons skipper Ben Hunt became the 47th player to appear in 300 NRL games and was denied a try in his milestone game due to an obstruction, but did record three try assists.
- Jayden Sullivan was sin binned for the first time in his career, which proved costly for the Dragons as the Cowboys scored three tries in seven minutes.
- Kyle Feldt has now scored nine tries in 10 games against the Dragons.
- Toby Couchman was placed on report for a suspected hip drop tackle.
- Valentine Holmes landed a spectacular two-point field goal from 45 metres out on the stroke of half-time, his first field goal of the season.
- Heilum Luki continued his impressive comeback from injury, scoring two tries to go with six tackle breaks and 185 metres in his 60-minute stint.
- Jamayne Taunoa-Brown did not return in the second half after he was taken off for a head injury assessment in the 48th minute.
- Moses Suli scored his first try of the year for the Dragons.
- The Dragons remain winless away from home this season.
The Cowboys are running hot
Play of the Game
Off the back of a powerful run and offload from Coen Hess, Cowboys big man Jordan McLean delivered the perfect inside pass for halfback Townsend to streak clear before a perfectly-weighted kick allowed Feldt to score untouched out wide.
The Cowboys hit straight back
What They Said
"It was disappointing. We gave ourselves a chance to get into the game and we did that but there was too much simple dropped ball. I think they scored two or three tries straight off our errors [and] a player in the bin and they get two or three tries – it wasn't how we wanted to play. Our execution was nowhere near where it needed to be and that was the whole crux of the game." – Dragons coach Anthony Griffin
Dragons: Round 11
"It's important that we keep ticking those wins over. After a scratchy start, we played some pretty good footy for 40-50 minutes. The game got a little scrappy but we got what we came to do which was win." – Cowboys coach Todd Payten
Cowboys: Round 11
The Dragons face a short turnaround with a return back home to face the Roosters at Nestrata Jubilee Stadium on Friday night – their second game against the Tricolours within a month. Meanwhile, Todd Payten's side will also travel to Sydney to face Wests Tigers on Saturday at Leichhardt Oval, a venue where they have lost eight of their past nine games but were last-start winners in 2021.