The Roar
The Roar


Drinkwater dazzles as Cowboys overcome dud sin bin call to hand tackle-shy Titans an unwanted 116-year record

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7th April, 2024

Cowboys coach Todd Payten recently said he thinks Scott Drinkwater is knocking on the door for State of Origin but his star fullback is now banging it down.

Drinkwater played like he had spiders on him at QCB Stadium on Sunday with the Titans struggling to get anywhere near him on multiple occasions as North Queensland racked up their fourth victory from five starts this season.

The 26-year-old was in everything as the home side raced to a 16-0 lead at the break and went on with the job in the second half to win 35-22 despite a few anxious moments after Chad Townsend was controversially sin-binned.

“I thought (Townsend’s tackle) was pretty innocuous, to be fair,” Payten said.  “I thought he was already on the ground. So it wasn’t a proper hip drop. The kid got up and played on, no dramas. 

“I’ve seen one two weeks ago where Jack Wighton didn’t get penalised at all (against Canterbury on Good Friday). Victor Radley gets put in the bin, and doesn’t get charged. So I’m not sure around it. But Chad’s in particular, I think the sin-binning was harsh.”

For the Gold Coast, they became the first club to concede 28 points in nine straight games in premiership history stretching back to 1908 and new coach Des Hasler is under mounting pressure to turn their fortunes around.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 07: Scott Drinkwater of the Cowboys makes a breakduring the round five NRL match between North Queensland Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans at Qld Country Bank Stadium, on April 07, 2024, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Scott Drinkwater makes a break. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)


Gold Coast’s 0-4 start is now the equal-worst in the club’s 17-season history, with Hasler facing a titanic battle to turn them around.

Only the Titans’ bye has saved them from sitting below South Sydney and in last place on the ladder, while they remain the only team without a win in 2024.

Their chances of ending this season’s four-game losing streak next Sunday in Canberra have taken a hit with veteran playmaker Kieran Foran limping off in the first half with an ankle injury.

“It was just too painful (to come back),” Foran said. “Hopefully the damage isn’t too bad. It feels alright now.”

North Queensland exposed Gold Coast’s poor outside defence in the fifth minute when Zac Laybutt strolled through a gap created by opposing centre Brian Kelly rushing in on Drinkwater as he ran a decoy.


It was 10-0 in the 15th minute when Drinkwater mesemerised the defence and shuffled the ball wide to Valentine Holmes, who did likewise for Murray Taulagi to touch down in the corner.

Drinkwater did it all himself seven minutes from the break when he surged past David Fifita and Jaimin Jolliffe close to the line to put the hosts up by 16.

The Titans thought they had cut the deficit on the last play of the half but a try to winger Harley Smith-Shields was knocked back by the Bunker because Jayden Campbell got in the way of Griffin Neame in the lead-up.

Kelly finally got the Titans onto the scoreboard in the 45th minute but Drinkwater continued tormenting the Titans when Townsend held up a pass as the fullback swept around the left edge to make it 22-4.

Drinkwater didn’t even need to watch when he unveiled his next magic trick. He feigned a pass out the back but sipped a no-look pass for Reece Robson to touch down.

AJ Brimson, who switched to five-eighth when Foran went off, sparked a rare Titans attacking raid to put Campbell over, prompting Fox League commentator Greg Alexander to call for Hasler to bring the Maroons representative back to the halves permanently after an unsuccessful switch to centre in 2024.


“Get him out of centre. Surely something’s got to change in this side that’s struggled to score points. They’d only scored four tries coming into today’s game. The injury to Kieran Foran has highlighted AJ Brimson needs to get his hands on the ball more often.”

Townsend was banished to the sin bin midway through the second stanza for a hip drop tackle on Campbell although replays suggested he did not use the controversial technique and teammate Jake Granville’s involvement in the tackle accidentatlly put the Titans fullback in an awkward position.

Tries to Klese Haas and Beau Fermor while Townsend was off brought the deficit back to six but Kyle Feldt came up with an intercept try in the final play before the halfback returned to put the Cowboys back up 34-22 and simultaneously claim the club’s try-scoring record from Matt Bowen with his 131st four-pointer.

Townsend ensured the victory with a late field goal with the Cowboys joining the Dolphins, Storm and Sharks in the top four as the only teams on eight competition points.

“We just couldn’t pull the trigger on the gun well enough to make it a contest,” Hasler said. “And consequently they capitalised on that one, and it was probably the ball game.”

The win for the Cowboys was tarnished by a suspected serious knee injury to Laybutt while bench forward Sam McIntyre is unlikely to suit up against Parramatta next Saturday after he was concussed trying to tackle Moeaki Fotuaika from a kick-off return.


As comprehensive as the Cowboys’ win was, Payten said he still had concerns around their defence. While North Queensland sit second on the ladder, they have conceded 20 or more points in four of their five games this year.

“I just don’t like how they’re scoring (against us),” Payten said. “Not enough of the tries are going in the corner. They’re coming through the teeth of the ruck.

“There were some good parts to it, but some really frustrating and disappointing parts.”

with AAP