Cowboys come on strong to thump Rhinos


North Queensland Cowboys proved far too strong for Leeds Rhinos as the NRL champions recorded a 38-4 victory in the World Club Challenge at Headingley on Sunday.

Sydney Roosters and Brisbane Broncos had outclassed Super League opposition in the World Club Series matches that took place on Friday and Saturday, and another one-sided fixture had been anticipated by many.

The Rhinos - thrashed 56-12 by Widnes Vikings in their last outing and missing a host of key players through injury - performed superbly to end the first half on level terms, but it was a different story after the interval as the Cowboys - with a strong wind at their backs - surged clear. 

Golden Boot holder Johnathan Thurston was among the try-scorers as the visitors ran in 34 unanswered points, while a spicy end to the encounter saw Leeds' Mitch Garbutt sent off for a retaliatory punch on James Tamou.

The Cowboys' opening try came against the run of play, a delayed pass from Thurston putting half-back partner Michael Morgan through a gap.

Yet after Thurston had skewed the conversion attempt wide, the Rhinos were soon back on the front foot and their courageous efforts were rewarded.

Liam Sutcliffe intercepted a pass from Thurston deep inside his own half and raced into Cowboys territory, before Rob Burrow - a try-scorer in the first of his seven World Club Challenge appearances 11 years ago - sneaked over following a delightful link-up with Adam Cuthbertson, whose offload was timed to perfection.

The Rhinos were given a rousing ovation as they went in level at half-time, but an error from Ash Handley, starting in place of the injured Tom Briscoe, saw North Queensland move ahead from their first attack after the interval.

Having kicked low into the wind throughout the first half, Thurston chose to go high with the gusts at his back and Handley was guilty of a drop that enabled Kane Linnett to claim the easiest of tries.

All of a sudden, the Cowboys were dominant and they extended their advantage to 10 points when Kyle Feldt powered past Ryan Hall to dot down in the right corner.

Leeds briefly rallied and teenager Jordan Lilley was held up agonisingly short in the 59th minute, but the game was effectively put to bed three minutes later when a Thurston grubber deflected kindly into the path of full-back Lachlan Coote via Sutcliffe's left leg.

Thurston soon spun out of a tackle for a score of his own and some dazzling footwork from Justin O'Neill made it 30-4 before Tamou sparked a melee by clipping Keith Galloway with his left hand.

Garbutt responded by landing cleanly with his right and was shown red for the punch before another O'Neill try and Thurston's fifth goal rounded off the scoring.