The blinding attacking flair of the reborn Cowboys was on show in the final game of a brilliant Magic Round in Brisbane – and the lead act was rising winger Murray Taulagi.
The 23-year-old from Auckland turned in an exceptional game as the Cowboys raced away for a 36-12 victory over Wests Tigers to score their fifth win in succession, securing third on the ladder outright in the process.
In an additional blow to the embattled Tigers, five-eighth Luke Brooks suffered an injury to his right hamstring. The 27-year-old was seen icing his hamstring on the bench and will undergo scans on Monday.
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Taulagi provided the highlight of the match when he threw one of the greatest passes the game has seen, hurling the footy back in while airborne over the left touchline to set up a Scott Drinkwater try in the eighth minute.
Wests Tigers halfback Jackson Hastings was grappling with Taulagi desperately, but that didn’t stop the red-hot talent from landing the ball right in Drinkwater’s mitts.
Taulagi bagged a try of his own in the 18th minute when he capped a slick chain of passes on the left wing, before collecting a second four-pointer when he chased a Chad Townsend grubber and planted the ball in the 49th minute.
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Moments before securing his second try he had appeared to produce a terrific finish, prancing down the left touchline and diving as he dotted down, but a Bunker review showed a boot had kissed the white paint.
“He’s really skillful, he understands the game really well, he makes some really smart decisions out on that edge, he’s good in the air and he’s strong out of his own end,” said Cowboys coach Todd Payten.
“He’s a really good player and he’s really starting to believe how good he can be.”
In a tremendous sign for the rebuilding Cowboys, fellow youngsters Jeremiah Nanai, Reuben Cotter and Tom Dearden were also among the most effective players in the match.
The 15th-placed Tigers are set for a bottom-of-the-table clash with the Bulldogs at Leichardt Oval.
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