It was unconvincing at times, but North Queensland have tuned up for the NRL finals with a 42-12 mauling of the Gold Coast Titans.
The game was in the balance with the Cowboys leading 20-12 midway through the second half on Saturday night before hooker Jake Granville sparked his side to five more tries to put the Titans away.
His effort in the 67th minute showcased the No.9’s skills.
He darted out of dummy half, grubbered ahead and then batted the ball just before it went dead, crashing into the 1300SMILES Stadium signage just as Antonio Winterstein was grounding the ball.
Granville then put the icing on the cake with a try of his own three minutes later, while late tries to James Tamou and Kane Linnett sealed the rout.
The win could have been much greater had the Cowboys not missed six goals through the boot of skipper Johnathan Thurston, Kyle Feldt and Ethan Lowe.
The Titans had stunned the third-placed Cowboys by bolting out to 12-0 lead.
The visitors had a completion rate of 90 per cent in the first half as they played with plenty of enthusiasm.
North Queensland launched a comeback typical of their style in 2015, but still had to weather an onslaught of attacking raids from the Titans early in the second half.
The Titans were denied a try in bizarre circumstances in the sixth minute.
An Agnatius Paasi bust was seemingly shut down when Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt stripped him of the ball, only for Paasi to pinch it right back and cross in the left corner.
But video referee Jared Maxwell ruled the initial strip was illegal.
The visitors made sure of it in the next set, a Daniel Mortimer bomb finding flying winger Kalifa Faifai Loa for the first points of the match.
Minutes later the Titans were in again as Josh Hoffman streaked away off the back of a rare Thurston error.
North Queensland needed a spark, and they found it through Michael Morgan’s deputy Ray Thompson who waltzed through some slack defence.
Back-to-back penalties gave the Cowboys prime field position and they made it count, Linnett scoring his first try of the night and his ninth for the season.
Thurston’s conversion levelled the scores.
Nene Macdonald kicked out on the full straight afterwards, which led to a Winterstein try and the Cowboys started to punch holes in the Titans’ defence at will.
The momentum swung squarely back in the Gold Coast’s favour off the back of four consecutive penalties, prompting Henry Perenara to give Thurston a talking to about his side’s discipline.
Dave Taylor crossed, but he knocked the ball on trying to ground it and releasing the pressure.
Ryan James knocked on in the first set of the second half allowing Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote to cross, pushing the lead out to 20-12.
When Gavin Cooper scored in the 62nd minute, the Titans resistance was all but over.