The resurgent Cowboys’ blinding attacking flair was on full display in the final game of a brilliant Magic Round in Brisbane – and the star player was rising winger Murray Taulagi.
The 23-year-old from Auckland had a stellar game as the Cowboys rode to a 36-12 win over the Wests Tigers to earn their fifth successive victory, securing third place in the standings.
In an extra blow to the beleaguered Tigers, five-eighth Luke Brooks injured his right hamstring. The 27-year-old was seen icing his hamstrings on the bench and will undergo scans on Monday.
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Taulagi provided the highlight of the game when he threw one of the greatest passes the game has seen, tossing the foot in the air over the left sideline to set up a try from Scott Drinkwater in the eighth minute.
Wests Tigers halfback Jackson Hastings was desperately struggling with Taulagi, but that didn’t stop the hot talent from landing the ball straight into Drinkwater’s mitts.
Former State of Origin hooker Michael Ennis described the pass on the Fox League cover as “absurd” and “absolutely unbelievable”, while caller Andrew Voss said it was “outrageous”.
Taulagi had his own try in the 18th minute when he caught a string of passes down the left wing, before picking up a second four when he chased a grubber from Chad Townsend and planted the ball in the 49th minute .
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Moments before getting his second down he had appeared to produce a terrific finish, prancing along the left sideline and diving as he dotted, but a Bunker review showed a boot had kissed the paint white.
“He’s really skilled, he understands the game really well, he makes really smart decisions on that upside, he’s good in the air and he’s strong on his side,” Cowboys coach Todd Payten said.
“He’s a very good player and he’s really starting to believe how good he can be.”
In a terrific sign for the Cowboys’ rebuild, fellow youngsters Jeremiah Nanai, Reuben Cotter and Tom Dearden were also among the game’s most effective players.
The Cowboys beat the Raiders, Titans, Eels, Knights and Tigers to five straight wins, and back-to-back Tests against the competition’s major heavyweights are ahead.
The Cowboys will face the Storm in Melbourne and the Panthers in Penrith in the next two rounds.
The 15th-seeded Tigers are set for a bottom-of-the-table clash with the Bulldogs at Leichardt Oval.
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