NRL: NZ Warriors overwhelm North Queensland Cowboys to stretch winning run at Townsville

Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and centre Rocco Berry have both scored try doubles, as NZ Warriors turned on arguably their best performance of the NRL season to embarrass North Queensland Cowboys 42-12 at Townsville.

Fresh off the bye, and welcoming several frontline players back from injury and suspension, the visitors never trailled, barely letting their rivals into the game through the opening 20 minutes, as they piled on three tries.

Nicoll-Klokstand scored probably the best try in the dying moments, as he kicked deep into the goal area and followed up to gather a desperate tapback from winger Dallin Watene-Klokstad to score. 

Te Maire Martin in action for the Warriors.
Te Maire Martin in action for the Warriors. Photo credit: Photosport

The visitors had the first scoring opportunity, when former Warriors Viliami Vailea fumbled the Cowboys' first possession, but a wide open try to Watene-Zelezniak was ruled out for obstruction. 

They continued to apply the pressure and forced fullback Scott Drinkwater into a fumble behind his goal-line. From the dropout, counterpart Nicoll-Klokstad had too much speed for the defence, eluding three tacklers to score in the corner.

A dropped ball by half Tom Dearden gifted the Warriors more possession in the redzone and prop Addin Fonua-Blake - back from a team suspension - powered across beside the posts with two defenders hanging on.  

Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt dropped the ball in a tackle inside his half and halfback Te Maire Martin found acres of space to put second-rower Mitch Barnett over for the Warriors' third try.

The Aucklanders had played 20 almost error-free minutes to start the contest, taking full advantage of their opponents' lapses, but the home side began to build pressure inside Warriors territory, lacking the accuracy to finish off their momentum.

The visitors almost had another try, when they contested high kick near the tryline, the ball was deflected to five-eighth Chanel Harris-Tavita, who batted it to winger Marcelo Montoya in space, but forward.

Captain Tohu Harris was held up over the line with his first touch, but the next play, centre Rocco Berry gathered a pass that bounced off his shoulder, but back into this hands to score. 

With halftime looming, the Cowboys finally found the scoreboard, when Dearden found space on his own 20 and waited for Drinkwater's speed to finish the breakout.

Ahead 22-6 at the break, the Warriors almost added to their lead, when Martin kicked for Watene-Zelezniak and Berry was first to force the loose ball, but the winger had knocked on in the contest.

They had another chance, when Harris was taken in a crusher tackle in Cowboys territory. On the next set, Martin threw an outrageous long pass for Watene-Zelezniak that seemed to bounce forward, but was ruled backwards out of the hands for a try.

When Cowboys half Chad Townsend was dragged into touch near his own line, the visitors were back on the frontfoot.  

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scores a try against Cowboys.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad scores a try against Cowboys. Photo credit: Photosport

Townsend was duly sin-binned for an early tackle on second-rower Kurt Capewell and Harris-Tavita for tossing the ball at his head, but centre Adam Pompey slotted the shot at goal to extend the lead.

Martin split the defence, Nicoll-Klokstad kicked to the goal area and Watene-Zelezniak somehow batted it back int play for his fullback to score a miracle try.

North Queensland hit back, with centre Val Holmes putting winger Braidon Burns over for a try in the corner, but with only eight minutes left, time was against any meaningful comeback.

That faint hope was extinguished, when Berry retreated quickly to cover a kick in his own half and sent Nicoll-Klokstad on long run upfield. Later in that set, Martin placed a delicate kick to the goal area and Berry was there to grab his try double.

The result doesn't quite propel the Warriors into the top-eight playoff reckoning - they lag a point outside with games still to come this weekend - but they at least take some momentum into a crucial home fixture against leaders Melbourne Storm next Saturday.

NZ Warriors 42 (Nicoll-Klokstad 2, Berry 2, Fonua-Blake, Barnett, Watene-Zelezniak tries; Pompey 6 conversions & penalty) North Queensland Cowboys 12 (Drinkwater, Burns tries; Holmes 2 conversions)