North Queensland have scored a crushing record-breaking 64-6 NRL victory over the dismal Wests Tigers in Townsville.
If the Wests Tigers were feeling the heat before their trip to Townsville, it has been turned up a few notches after North Queensland humiliated them in a record-breaking 64-6 win on Saturday night.
The Cowboys tore the injury-ravaged and dysfunctional club apart to surge into the NRL top four and set a new club record for most number of points scored in an NRL match and biggest winning margin – eclipsing the 60-8 thrashing it handed to South Sydney in 2003.
They also extended their winning streak at home to eight games.
Matthew Wright had a hat-rick of tries within 15 minutes of kick-off.
Barnstorming backrower Jason Taumalolo, winger Tautau Moga and Antonio Winterstein all crossed for two tries each while Tariq Sims, Michael Morgan and Kane Linnett added four-pointers in the 11 tries-to-one rout.
Halfback Johnathan Thurston rubbed salt into the wounds by jokingly taking his last conversion attempt left-footed.
The Cowboys needed to win by a margin of 22 points or more to push the Sydney Roosters out of fourth spot, at least temporarily.
They had scored that many points in less than 27 minutes.
The off-field turmoil at the Tigers has been well documented, with talk of an ever-widening rift between captain Robbie Farah, coach Mick Potter and chief executive Grant Mayer refusing to go away.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the already injury-hit Tigers lost halfback Luke Brooks (shoulder), veteran winger Pat Richards (hamstring), Bodene Thompson and Sitaleki Akauola (both suspended) and the late scratching of prop Keith Galloway, forcing seven changes in the team.
The Tigers conceded 13 line breaks to one, made twice as many tackles and half as many metres and were never in the hunt against a Cowboys outfit surging into premiership contention.
The tone for the night was set from the kick-off, with young fullback Mitchell Moses allowing the ball to go into touch, gifting the Cowboys easy early possession.
It didn’t get better, throwing the ball into touch and giving a wayward pass to Chris Lawrence with his next two touches.
As if things could get any worse, Farah was left writhing in pain after copping an accidental kick to the midriff from teammate Ava Seumanufagai.
Aaron Woods finally broke the drought when he scored for the Tigers in the 59th minute, but they knocked on from the ensuing restart and Moga crossed from the next set.
that effectively snuffed out their finals ambitions – as unacceptable.
“It was by far our worst performance of the season,” he said.
“It was unacceptable and we all take responsibility for it.
“They’re distraught and they are very upset.
“I’m not sure if that (the off-field distractions) has played any part, or has played a big part.
“Stick with us.
“It’s a tough one for the fans to take and I am sure they are feeling it like we are.”
Farah was prepared to accept criticism for their performance after another difficult week.
“We’re pretty embarrassed,” he said.
“But the only people who can get us out of this is ourselves.
“Obviously we’re going to cop it, and we deserve it after that performance.”
Cowboys coach Paul Green said it had been a hard game for the players to prepare for given what was happening at the Tigers.
“They’ve had a pretty tough couple of weeks as a club, obviously really disrupted with personnel and team changes,” he said.
“It was always going to be a tough night for them given that.
“What pleased me the most was we had no control over that … I think we went about our work pretty well.”