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The Cowboys piled on seven tries in a 43-18 rout of the Dolphins to open their 2024 campaign in style at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon. 

In their first game under the guidance of new attack coach James Maloney, North Queensland took full advantage of the Dolphins' inability to defend late in tackle counts and on four occasions scored tries when they opted to run the ball on play five. 

Outside of the clever decision-making of playmakers Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden, whose tactics were on point across the 80 minutes, second-year centre Zac Laybutt was the outstanding individual performer. 

The 22-year-old scored a brilliant opener on three minutes and laid on a classy assist for Kyle Feldt later in the half, with the right-centre spot made vacant by Peta Hiku's off-season departure now looking to be his for the foreseeable future. 

Zac Laybutt Try

The final score wasn't the only bad news for the Dolphins, with back-rower Connelly Lemuelu reported to have suffered a dislocated kneecap which is set to rule him out for an extended period. 

While they were able to hit back through new recruit Tom Flegler after Laybutt's early strike, Wayne Bennett's side were never really in the contest once the Cowboys got on a roll and ran in further tries to Dearden, Jeremiah Nanai and Feldt. 

Jeremiah Nanai Try

Josh Kerr offered a brief reprieve with a try on 32 minutes, but Murray Taulagi's effort, a fifth Valentine Holmes conversion and late Townsend field goal made it 31-6 at the break. 

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow literally kicked the ball to Heilum Luki for the Cowboys' sixth, in a regrettable attempt to retrieve possession, while a penalty try – credited as a second for Laybutt – came 12 minutes from time after Jack Bostock was ruled to have pushed the centre off the ball and denied him a try. 

Bostock got at least some redemption minutes later when he finished a scorching attacking play for the Dolphins, but it was too late to impact anything other than the final highlights package. 

Match Snapshot

  • The North Queensland back five all registered over 100 run metres, with Kyle Feldt (187 metres) leading the way. 
  • All up the Cowboys had over 2000 metres in running compared to their opponents' 1485. 
  • Dolphins back-rower Connelly Lemuelu was forced from the field on 28 minutes after dislocating his kneecap, while lock Ray Stone failed a HIA in the second half. 
  • Jesse Bromwich went on report just after the hour mark after the Dolphins' skipper was pinged for a dangerous tackle. 

Jesse Bromwich on report for a dangerous tackle

  • The Cowboys have now won five of their past six games at Suncorp Stadium.
  • The match marked Dolphins forward Mark Nicholls' 150th NRL appearance. 

Play of the Game

Having scored a brilliant try of his own to open the game, Laybutt laid one on for his edge partner Kyle Feldt with a long-range break that must have crushed the spirits of the helpless Dolphins defence. Sean O'Sullivan will have nightmares about the 22-year-old's run over the top of him in the lead up. 

Kyle Feldt Try

What they Said

"Fifth-and-last plays [disappointed me the most], they scored four or five tries off that... they found us out on fifth-and-last plays, they didn't find us out in too many other areas if you look at the game. We just had a bad day, we've got 23 games to go so if we can put it behind us pretty quickly we'll be a lot better off than if we're going to drag it out." – Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett. 

Dolphins: Round 1

"We started fast and played some nice footy to begin with and put some points on the board. I'm just happy to sit in the sheds with a boys after a long pre-season and enjoy the hard work we have put in. It's only Round 1, it's a marathon, not a sprint... it's important that we capitalise on this moving forward." – Cowboys coach Todd Payten. 

Cowboys: Round 1

What's Next

The Dolphins are the home side again in Round 2, this time back at Kayo Stadium in Redcliffe, with the Dragons awaiting them on Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys have a six-day break before hosting the Knights in Townsville on Saturday night. 

Acknowledgement of Country

The Dolphins respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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