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18 Mar 2018 13:29
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby League

    Thurston inspires Cowboys in NRL milestone

    Johnathan Thurston has inspired North Queensland to a 20-14 NRL season-opening win over Cronulla in Townsville in his 300th game.

    - article from

    The loss of Michael Morgan could not stop North Queensland toasting Johnathan Thurston's 300th NRL game with a 20-14 round-one victory over Cronulla on Friday night in Townsville.

    The night was always going to be about Cowboys co-captain Thurston, who kickstarted his 17th and final season with his landmark game that also eclipsed Matt Bowen's club-record 270-match mark.

    And Thurston revelled in the spotlight, setting up two tries including a 78th-minute match winner to back-rower Gavin Cooper.

    "It was pretty fast. There was a fair bit of rust out there," Thurston said of his comeback match from a shoulder injury.

    "I am kind of glad the week is over so we can now get on with the season."

    The Cowboys lost Morgan (abdominal) before kickoff, replaced by Te Maire Martin in the starting halves alongside man of the moment Thurston.

    It was a major blow for the Cowboys who also had fullback Lachlan Coote (hamstring) and centre Kane Linnett (pectoral) sidelined.

    However, Thurston ensured the limelight was again firmly on him by celebrating his milestone game in style.

    It was the official return from injury for Thurston (shoulder) and fellow co-captain Matt Scott (knee).

    "Te Maire did a great job. It doesn't matter who comes into the team, we have faith that they will get the job done but, hopefully, those boys are back in the coming weeks," Thurston said.

    The Cowboys celebrated the win in front of 15,900 fans with many believed to have missed the game due to floodwaters north of Townsville.

    Thurston didn't waste time making an impact as North Queensland grabbed a 14-8 halftime lead.

    After Cronulla grabbed an early penalty, Thurston set up Justin O'Neill to score in the 23rd minute.

    The Cowboys were ahead 10-2 after Coen Hess scored off a Jake Granville inside ball in the 27th minute, before the Sharks bit back through prized recruit Josh Dugan (31st).

    North Queensland looked like they would run away with it when winger Kyle Feldt scored in the 35th minute off a Martin 'Hail Mary' pass to make it 14-8.

    But Martin turned villain when he threw an intercept to Ricky Leutele who set up James Segeyaro for a 68th-minute runaway try to cut the lead to 16-14.

    Thurston ensured it went to script when his clever grubber was snapped up by Cooper.

    Cronulla winger Sione Katoa was sent to hospital with a suspected fractured jaw suffered in the 52nd minute.

    The Sharks were without veteran back-rower Luke Lewis, who injured his ankle at Thursday's captain's run in Townsville.

    "We beat ourselves there," Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said.

    "I am pleased with the effort but all those errors came back to haunt us."


    © 2018 NZN, NZCity

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