The Titans have put an end to North Queensland's six-game winning streak by beating their rivals 22-13 at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday.
In a see-sawing Queensland derby, the Titans took a unique nine-point lead shortly after half-time through tries to Jayden Campbell and Alofiana Khan-Pereira after the Cowboys led 13-10 at the break.
Both sides had their chances in the final 35 minutes but neither team could get over the line for the remainder of the second half with the Cowboys' loss putting a dent in their finals hopes with the Knights and Sea Eagles hot on their heels.
For the Titans, it was a crucial win after four straight losses of their own with David Fifita and Jayden Campbell strong while Phil Sami caused havoc with eight tackle busts and over 209 metres.
The Titans crossed early through AJ Brimson but the fullback was taken after the field shortly after with a torn abdominal muscle - an injury he was able to return with after a pain-killing injection during the first half.
A.J. Brimson try 7th minute
North Queensland went over twice in Brimson's absence with Semi Valemei crossing on the right edge through a Scott Drinkwater pass before Coen Hess outleaped Titans defenders to score under the posts off a Chad Townsend kick.
Cowboys centre Valentine Holmes found himself in the sin-bin for a second time in a fortnight after collecting Campbell high which is likely to come under scrutiny from the Match Review Committee.
The Titans took just two minutes to take advantage of the overlap with Sami crossing out wide.
Coen Hess try 14th minute
Townsend put the Cowboys ahead by three before half-time with a standard field goal on the siren but that proved to be worth little when Campbell crossed just 30 seconds into the second half.
The Titans were in again five minutes later when David Fifita got into some space to send Khan-Pereira over the line for his 18th try of the season in as many games.
North Queensland came home strong with a weight of possession in the final 15 minutes but unlike the trend of their second halves this season, the Titans aimed up in defence to deny the Cowboys including an effort on Jake Granville late.
Match: Titans v Cowboys
Round 22 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
- The Titans had all the possession and made six linebreaks to one in the victory.
- Cowboys forwards Coen Hess and Luciano Leilua were placed on report for dangerous tackles while Valentine Holmes was sin-binned for a high shot on Jayden Campbell.
- AJ Brimson tore an abdominal muscle in the match but was able to return to the field as a centre. Brimson has now scored eight tries in 10 games against the Cowboys.
- Alofiana Khan-Pereira has now overtaken David Fifita in scoring the most tries in a season at the Titans - his 18th overtaking Fifita's effort of 17 in 2021.
- The Titans broke a four-game losing streak in the victory and ended North Queensland's six-game winning streak in the process.
- The Titans' victory was just their fourth in 17 games against the Cowboys.
- North Queensland missed 48 tackles in the defeat - their worst effort in six weeks.
- Cowboys hooker Reece Robson left the field in the 66th minute for a head injury assessment and did not return.
- Titans centre Jojo Fifita suffered a syndesmosis injury in the victory.
Play of the game
A try-saving effort from Tanah Boyd with four minutes left on Jake Granville denied the Cowboys any chance of a last-minute comeback to cap a defensive effort that helped the Titans seal victory. The tackle unsettled the Cowboys as both sides came together after the efforts.
What they said
"Win, lose or draw and the outcome is obviously important, but it's about us gaining trust in ourselves to defend out games. Not having a point scored against us is the second half is pleasing. We had to balance AJ and then Jojo injured his syndesmosis, and we were without Tino. We're proud men and a proud club and that's a mindset we're trying to get better at." - Titans interim coach Jim Lenihan.
"I'm really disappointed. We fought hard in that first half to stay in front at half-time, defending with 12 men for the second week in a row. We've had to do it on 10 occasions this year. That becomes draining on our energy. I can't argue with the penalties [against us]. We didn't have enough field position and didn't make some tough decisions in key moments. They built pressure where we weren't able to. The way we started the second half was unacceptable." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten.
NRL Press Conference: Titans v Cowboys - Round 22, 2023
The Cowboys are back in action next Saturday in an all-Queensland derby against the Broncos at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. It will be a special occasion for the club with their first NRLW-NRL double-header while a kick-off time of 3pm will see a rare day game in Townsville. The Titans face a five-day turnaround but remain on the Gold Coast to face the Warriors.