NRL round 16: NORTH QUEENSLAND 24 CRONULLA 4 at 1300smiles Stadium

By STEVE MASCORD

JAMES Tamou says he has been given no assurances about a return to the NSW side for Origin III and describes his task of winning back his jersey as “straightforward yet difficult”.

Tamou returned from a two week suspension for high range drink driving in North Queensland’s 24-4 win over Cronulla at 1300smiles Stadium amid reports he had already been informed of his inclusion in the Blues’ side for the deciding Origin at ANZ Stadium on July 17.

He ran with the football 18 times – more than anyone else on the field – and was bettered for metres only by the man who would be his rival in Sydney, Matthew Scott.

“Definitely not – I’ve heard other people say I’ll be in the team but no-one has told me,” said Tamou, who was fined $20,000 and excluded from Origin II selection as a result of a high-range blood alcohol reading while unlicenced, said when asked if he had been tipped off about his selection.

“It was so hard watching game two from the couch. On one hand, it’s straightforward to make the side because I know what I have to do but on the other, it’s difficult because there are other good players there who want to keep you out.

“After what happened, I just wanted to get out there and rip in.”

Coach Neil Henry said Tamou found the pace testing after his enforced layoff. One of the men Tamou will be contesting a spot with, Cronulla’s Andrew Fifita, started from the bench last night and clocked up 14 runs and 111 metres.

It was 4-4 at halftime before the Cowboys edged ahead early in the second session and ran away with the contest in the closing minutes to move within two points of the top eight despite a topsy-turvy season.

According to centre Brent Tate the axe supposedly hanging over coach Neil Henry is a big motivator for the players, who registered the club’s 100th-ever home win and have more games 1300smiles Stadium.

“We wouldn’t be turning up like we are and defending like we are if we weren’t doing it for him,” said Tate.

The Sharks were without captain Paul Gallen (foot) and NSW Origin hopeful Michael Gordon (calf) while the withdrawal of winger Beau Ryan (knee) led to Matthew Wright making a 10 hour trek from New Zealand to play.

“We weren’t playing well at any stage of that game,” said coach Shane Flanagan, who said Gallen (foot) was “touch and go” for Origin III and would definitely no play before that.

“We were just hanging in there, playing against I said that I don’t think was that much on themselves.

“Thirteen times we turned the ball over. Their field position and the possession they had just took it out of us.

“If we play like that, we don’t deserve to be there (in the top eight).

Tries to NQ centre Kane Linnett (six minutes) and Cronulla back rower Luke Lewis (27) in the first half cancelled each other out, before the 46th minute touchdown by Cowboy Gavin Cooper set up the six point deficit that remained for much of the second session.

Johnathan Thurston’s penalty goal then made the gap match-winning, before Antonio Winterstein and Linnett again made it a handsome scoreline for the home side.

Cowboy Ashton Sims was booked during the first half for kneeing in the head Cronulla late inclusion Nathan Stapleton.

Thurston ‘s haul moved him into the all time top 10 for points scored at a single venue, with 667 at the former trotting track

NORTH QUEENSLAND 24 (K Linnett 2 G Cooper A Winterstein tries J Thurston 4 goals) bt CRONULLA 4 (L Lewis try) at 1300smiles Stadium. Referees: A Devcich/A Shortall. Crowd: 

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