Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys.
Johnathan Thurston of the Cowboys. DAVE HUNT

Thurston returns from injury to deliver win against Eels

JOHNATHAN Thurston is back and ready to take on the Blues.

If there were any doubts over the health of Thurston's shoulder, they should be gone after North Queensland's 32-6 over Parramatta on Saturday.

The Eels made sure they tested the halfback out.

Kenny Edwards was warned by the officials for a late shot he put on Thurston.

Suaia Matagi tried him too.

But while he wore the number 19 on his back, it was the same ole JT who set-up three tries in a masterclass.

"Not too bad. It's a bit sore," Thurston said when asked how his shoulder pulled up.

"I got a couple of late hits which was expected but it came through unscathed."

It took Thurston less than seven minutes to make his presence felt.

The maestro delivered a pin-point cross-field kick for Kyle Feldt who leapt over the top of semi Radradra to post first points.

Minutes later Michael Morgan was unlucky to be denied a try when Brad Takairangi caught the legs of Radradra following a nudge by Feldt as they chased a bomb.

A break from Kane Linnett put the Cowboys on the attack midway through the first half and after back-to-back penalties, Thurston extended the Cowboys' lead by eight.

Thurston wasn't the only Queenslander who impressed.

He'll return to the Maroons side for game two of the Origin series and his Cowboys teammate Coen Hess is odds on to join him.

Why? Nine minutes short of the break, Hess left a life-sized impression of Mitchell Moses in the TIO Stadium turf after belting the 80 kilo half as he got a kick away.

It was a brutal shot which led to a melee, yet the officials determined the hit to be legal and handed the Cowboys a penalty for the ruckus that ensued.

Chalk that one up to Cowboys luck.

With the gun loaded, Thurston pulled the trigger.

A chip for the corner of Feldt saw the winger touch down for his second of the night.

Thurston nailed another goal on the stroke of halftime for a 14-0 lead with the visitors leading the penalty count 6-2 at the break.

Having been battered and bruised in the opening 40 minutes, he took the line on early in the second half, brushing past Bevan French for a solo try.

Ahead 20-0, Thurston put Hess over when he targeted Moses 10 metres from the line.

"He's handled everything that's been thrown at him," Thurston said of Hess.

"If he's required to play 20-30 minutes in that arena I think he'll handle it.

"I'm sure if he gets his opportunity he won't let anyone down."

With 20 minutes left on the clock, the Cowboys were far from done.

A short side play saw Lachlan Coote pop a pass out to Antonio Winterstein and Thurston kicked the goal to extend the lead by 32.

Takairangi made sure the Eels weren't kept scoreless when he stepped past Gavin Cooper on a solo effort to get his team on the board and Nathan Davis went within a whisker of grounding a Moses grubber, only to be denied by the video replay.

With a win under his belt, Origin looms and Thurston is ready to lead the Maroons onto ANZ Stadium on June 21.

"It's keeping all the little muscles around the muscle as strong as possible," Thurston said of his shoulder.

"Plenty of physio. It'll handle the contact part it's just getting caught in awkward positions. I'm working extremely hard on it.

"I'm in safe hands and my shoulder pulled up really good. I'm happy."

News Corp Australia

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