The Sydney Roosters’ decision to play their NRL home game against North Queensland in Darwin proved a disaster on Saturday night as the Cowboys ran in nine tries to embarrass the tricolours 50-12.
Played in hot and humid tropical conditions more suited to the Cowboys, the Roosters looked flat from the opening whistle.
Cowboys Jason Taumalolo, Antonio Winterstein and Matt Bowen all scored doubles to inflict the 11th loss from as many home games the Roosters have taken away from their Sydney base since 2006.
The Roosters arrived in Darwin on Thursday and coach Brian Smith defended the decision to arrive a couple of days after the Cowboys.
“I think that would have made us more fatigued. We looked at whether we could come four or fives days earlier. Coming from Townsville to here is a slightly different step coming from the crisp autumn weather that we’ve had the last few days in Sydney before we came up here,” Smith said.
“The decision to come here and play the game is based on finance and also a bit of it’s about promoting the game.
“… We didn’t handle it well enough. There’s no blame game going on – we knew what we were in for and we needed to do better.”
Cowboys coach Neil Henry was delighted with his team’s effort particularly their opening.
“We put the kicks on the money. The conditions were quite oppressive – you needed to get the territorial advantage there and we were able to do that,” he said.
North Queensland ran in five tries to take a 28-0 halftime lead in the match played in close to 80 per cent humidity and nearly 30 degrees.
The Roosters were on the back foot early with Cowboys centre Winterstein scoring in the eighth minute.
Winterstein had a double three minutes later when he scored on the left edge and Johnathan Thurston added the extras to make it 12-0.
The Roosters continued to backpedal and struggle in the conditions before winger Ashley Graham finished off a nice backline move to score to make it 16-0.
Three minutes later, the Cowboys produced another sweeping backline play with Kalifa Faifai Loa diving over in the corner which Thurston converted to make it 22-0.
A drinks break stemmed the flow of points for the Roosters but, soon after the resumption, Thurston produced a brilliant banana kick that fullback Bowen pounced on to score next to the posts.
The Roosters sat in a coolroom at halftime and it looked to have brought them to life with tries soon after the break to Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Joseph Leilua and there was a faint hope of a comeback at 28-12.
But the Cowboys iced the Roosters soon after when Taumalolo burst through from close range to score under the posts to make it 34-12.
The Cowboys dominated the final 12 minutes with soft tries to Ray Thompson, Taumalolo and Bowen.
North Queensland front-rower Ashton Sims was placed on report for a high shot on Roosters back-rower Jack Bosden in the second half.