TRY TIME: Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt bagged a double in his side's big win over the Eels.
TRY TIME: Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt bagged a double in his side's big win over the Eels. GLENN CAMPBELL

Thurston runs hot in Cowboys victory

RUGBY LEAGUE: THE master is back. And his Cowboys apprentice might just help rescue the Maroons.

The talismanic Johnathan Thurston and terrifying tyro Coen Hess combined to pulverise Parramatta 32-6 in Darwin, in the process giving Queensland fresh hope of saving their record Origin dynasty.

Playing his first game for the Cowboys in 63 days, Thurston looked like he'd never been away, sealing his selection for Origin II with a trademark hatchet job on a dismal Eels outfit at TIO Stadium.

With Queensland coach Kevin Walters in the Top End for Fox Sports, Thurston scored a try and set up three others to quash any fears over his shoulder in his 299th NRL game.

The Cowboys champion found an equally destructive ally in Hess, who submitted another irresistible case for a maiden Maroons jumper with the second-half try that buried the Eels.

Queensland were dealt a crushing blow on Friday night when Anthony Milford, the man who replaced Thurston for Origin I, suffered a dislocated shoulder in Brisbane's defeat of Souths.

But Walters can breathe easy. Thurston is back for his 37th Origin game on Wednesday week. And Maroons selectors should put aside the waffle about Hess being too young for Origin and hand him his maiden jumper when they announce their side on Monday.

"I copped a few late hits early o

Johnathan Thurston put on an NRL master class in his return from injury for the North Queensland Cowboys.
Johnathan Thurston put on an NRL master class in his return from injury for the North Queensland Cowboys.

"There's always a target on my head so that won't change.

"It's a been a while out, but my fitness wasn't too bad. I was more happy with the team performance than how I played.”

In front of a record Darwin crowd of 11,968, the Cowboys were never headed. With Thurston pulling the strings, winger Kyle Feldt picked up a first-half double to propel North Queensland to a 14-0 half-time lead.

Thurston went for the jugular after the break, crossing himself in the 45th minute before producing a sublime short ball eight minutes later for Hess, who charged over for his 10th try of the season.

Thurston later declared Hess would be up for the challenge if called up to face the Blues at ANZ Stadium.

"I think he would handle it if he gets the opportunity,” he said.

"I haven't spoken to Kevvie (Walters) about him so we'll wait and see.”

The Cowboys received a boost on match day when their most important player, Thurston, was cleared to return for his first club game in two months following calf and shoulder injuries.

The Cowboys have too many quality players to be labelled a one-man band but with Thurston back at the nerve centre, they found an additional gear to dictate terms against the Eels.

Thurston has a knack of making players around him look better and his kicking game extracted the best of hulking winger Kyle Feldt.

It has been a rollercoaster year for Feldt. He went tryless in the opening nine rounds and was making too many fundamental errors, but in the past month, Feldt has got his groove back.

The 102kg hulk delivered both of North Queensland's first-half tries. Both were orchestrated by Thurston, the first in the seventh minute from a cross kick before he put boot to ball again for Feldt to fly high in the 34th minute for a 12-0 advantage.

With Corey Norman returning for the Eels, Parramatta were expected to present more of a threat to the Cowboys. But when fullback Lachlan Coote put Antonio Winterstein over for a 32-0 lead on the hour, the Cowboys slipped into cruise control.

NORTH QUEENSLAND 32 (K Feldt 2 C Hess J Thurston A Winterstein tries J Thurston 6 goals) bt PARRAMATTA 6 (B Takairangi try C Gutherson goal) at TIO Stadium. Referee: Gavin Reynolds, Adam Gee. Crowd: 11,968



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