North Queensland’s hopes of a first NRL minor premiership are back on track after they came from behind to overwhelm the Warriors 50-16 in Auckland.
The Cowboys, who went into Saturday night’s match after two losses, overcame the concession of three early tries to grab nine of their own, with winger Kyle Feldt getting a hat-trick.
For the Warriors, the defeat continued their dismal run since they climbed into the top four earlier in the season.
They have lost all six matches since then to leave them facing a fourth straight season without finals football.
Both teams were short-handed for most of the match.
The Cowboys lost prop James Tamou (neck) and five-eighth Michael Morgan (ankle) in the first half, both of whom were carried off on the medicab after lengthy stoppages.
while Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman suffered a fractured cheekbone in the first carry of the game.
The Warriors produced a lightning start, up 16-0 by the 13th minute, with halfback Tuimoala Lolohea showing electric feet.
But the break after Tamou was hit in a big tackle by Warriors skipper Simon Mannering turned the momentum.
Tamou was taken to hospital as a precaution but is expected to travel home with the team on Sunday.
The Cowboys, inspired by halfback Johnathan Thurston and with forwards Jason Taumalolo and Ben Hannant producing plenty of metres, roared back with four tries to lead 24-16 at half time.
Ben Spina’s first NRL try early in the second spell put the Cowboys further ahead before fellow interchange forward Coen Hess, 19, marked his first-grade debut by barging over.
Feldt completed his hat-trick, centre Kane Linnett also got on the scoresheet before centre Justin O’Neill completed his double.
Earlier, Lolohea had got the Warriors off to a great start, stepping past five defenders for a brilliant individual try.
His halves partner, NRL debutant Mason Lino, got in the act with a deft kick-ahead from which winger Ken Maumalo touched down.
When Lolohea made another break and kicked ahead, centre Dominique Peyroux dotted down to extend the lead.
But after Tamou went off, Feldt produced an excellent finish before Thurston skipped his way over for a soft try.
Feldt added his second four-pointer and then O’Neill scored just out from half-time to put the visitors in control.