North Queensland captain Johnathan Thurston wants a couple of big scalps and an end to his club’s run of narrow NRL defeats.

North Queensland captain Johnathan Thurston is looking to bag a couple of big NRL scalps and for an end to the Cowboys’ gut-wrenching run of close losses.

The seventh-placed Cowboys are in the midst of a tough and season-shaping set of matches in which they play the top three teams in their last four rounds.

After losing 23-22 at third-placed Penrith on Monday, North Queensland back up on the road again on Saturday against a red-hot South Sydney outfit.

The second-placed Rabbitohs have won their past five, outscoring their opponents 181-60 over that period.

North Queensland finish off with two home games against bottom of the ladder Cronulla and top of the table Manly.

“There’s no bigger test than coming up against the Bunnies and we’ve got Manly at home in the last round,” Thurston told AAP on Tuesday.

“Hopefully, if we can get a couple of scalps over the next weeks then, fingers crossed, we’re playing semi-final football.”

The one-point defeat by the Panthers continued a remarkable and potentially very costly series of narrow defeats the Cowboys have endured this year.

Since an opening-round six-point win over Canberra, they have featured in eight matches determined by five points or less and have won only one.

“We struggle in that department and we need to learn from that,” Thurston said.

The one win they had in that block was a 20-18 victory over Souths, but no club has managed to beat the Rabbitohs twice this season.

Thurston is also looking for a lift in form outside Queensland, with the club winning only two of nine interstate games.

“I thought last night was a step in the right direction for us, with semi-final-type kind of football so, no doubt, that will be on the agenda again on Saturday night,” Thurston said.

“It’s a huge test for us. Hopefully, we’re up for the challenge – we need to be.

“We’re going to see where we’re at as a squad and where we’re at as a team and we need to learn how to win away from home.”


* Round 2: Broncos 16 Cowboys 12

* Round 3: Warriors 20 Cowboys 16

* Round 4: Titans 13 Cowboys 12

* Round 7: Sea Eagles 26 Cowboys 21

* Round 13: Eels 18 Cowboys 16

* Round 17: Dragons 27 Cowboys 24

* Round 23: Panthers 23 Cowboys 22