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Thurston leads Cowboys to NRL win

North Queensland and Canterbury confirmed just how valuable their respective stars are on Saturday night, with Cowboys maestro Johnathan Thurston guiding his team to a 24-12 NRL win over the Ben Barba-less Bulldogs.
Thurston leads Cowboys to NRL win
by AAP

By Ben Horne

GOSFORD, NSW, March 9 AAP - North Queensland and Canterbury confirmed just how valuable their respective stars are on Saturday night, with Cowboys maestro Johnathan Thurston guiding his team to a 24-12 NRL win over the Ben Barba-less Bulldogs.

The off-contract Thurston took no time showing why he's the most sought-after man in the NRL, setting up three tries in a master-class performance, the first inside the opening 60 seconds of the Cowboys' season in Gosford.

Canterbury were without seven players from last year's grand final-qualifying team but it was no surprise the most significant absentee was Barba, who is out of the game indefinitely as he battles personal issues.

The Bulldogs soldiered on without forwards James Graham (suspended), Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard (both injured), but sorely missed the match-turning ability of Barba and the confidence he brings the team.

Last year, the Bulldogs rolled over the top of teams like an unstoppable machine.

But without Barba, their error rate was high and they took poor options at the crucial moments.

That's not to say Barba's replacement at fullback Drury Low wasn't impressive, and that the 'Dogs aren't capable of shaking off early season rust.

For the Cowboys, it might only be round one, but beating last year's grand finalists away from home in Gosford was an encouraging sign for a side many believe capable of delivering the club its first premiership.

It's not as if Cowboys officials needed reminding of how crucial Thurston is to their organisation, but the way the Queensland five-eighth ran the show on Saturday made it abundantly clear they must throw everything into keeping their skipper.

Thurston is being chased by a number of Sydney clubs including Penrith.

A Thurston bomb delivered Ashley Graham a first-minute try, when Bulldogs winger Steve Turner fumbled.

However, the Bulldogs rode their luck with some fortunate deflections and Josh Reynolds and Turner gave them a 12-4 lead. The advantage was short-lived, as Thurston put tries on a platter for Gavin Cooper and Antonio Winterstein for an 18-12 halftime scoreline.

Try-scoring specialist Graham completed a double in the 59th minute from a Matt Bowen cut-out pass, and some resilient goal-line defence ensured a 12-point lead was enough.




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