Key duo hurt as Cowboys humble Storm
Injuries to Jason Taumalolo and Kyle Feldt have taken some gloss from North Queensland's stunning 36-6 thumping of Melbourne in front of a sellout crowd in Townsville.
The Cowboys were staring down 12 straight losses to Craig Bellamy's side, with their last win coming in the 2015 preliminary final.
But a six-tries-to-one performance on Saturday night marked their sixth win in a row and handed the depleted Storm their biggest loss since 2013 and their most points conceded since 2017.
The win will have Cowboys fans contemplating premiership aspirations as their team went level on points with the second-placed Storm on the ladder.
North Queensland scored 30 or more points for a fifth consecutive game and Valentine Holmes kicked a perfect six from six conversions.
The Storm failed to fire in the second half, when they were held scoreless after trailing 12-6 at halftime, as the hosts surged clear.
Feldt's left leg was bent back awkwardly in a first-half tackle and he is in serious doubt to contend for the June 8 Origin series opener after debuting for Queensland last year.
Co-captain Taumalolo also departed in the first half, suffering a suspected right knee injury.
Coach Todd Payten said the initial diagnosis for Feldt was his in-form winger would be out for a while, and he would also be surprised if metre-eater Taumalolo comes up okay.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy, who was without key players in Ryan Papenhuyzen and Jarome Hughes while playing hooker Harry Grant in the halves, said his side lacked cohesion and were outplayed by an impressive Cowboys outfit.
"I thought there was a lack of competing tonight which really disappointed me," Bellamy said.
"When we beat ourselves by a lack of competing and doing the little things really well, that's area for concern."
"They just outcompeted us tonight, they were smarter than us too....but that doesn't stop you from competing. That's where they were way superior to us tonight."
North Queensland bagged three tries in eight minutes early after the break as they dominated possession.
Winger Murray Taulagi boosted his State of Origin selection push with an aerial putdown, fullback Scott Drinkwater found the line off a poor defensive read and young forward Jeremiah Nanai added two more tries to his season tally to be second in the competition with 10.
The Cowboys could easily have won by more but Coen Hess was ruled for a double movement with his crash play and Melbourne winger Xavier Coates miraculously held up Taulagi over the line after a break.
Their second half shutout of the Storm marked the fifth time in six games the Cowboys had kept their opposition scoreless in the second half.
The home team started as they finished, with Tom Gilbert nabbing their first try when he gathered the ball from a short goal-line drop out in the 12th minute and broke through the tackle of Marion Seve.
Tom Dearden then found Reece Robson six minutes later from a quick play-the-ball for a try, before Felise Kaufusi finally cracked the Cowboys' defensive wall to score the Storm's only try in the 32nd minute.
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