Cowboys down Knights, win fourth straight

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North Queensland have recorded four consecutive wins for the first time in five years after a comprehensive second-half performance powered them to a 36-16 NRL victory over Newcastle.

Down 16-12 at the break, the Cowboys scored four unanswered tries in the second spell as Chad Townsend played provider to kick them back up to third on the NRL ladder.

Coach Todd Payten admitted his side didn't get their game right in the first half which led to uncharacteristic errors.

But coming out revamped and focused after the break, they found the line twice in back-to-back sets with the first coming through a Townsend kick to Murray Taualagi, before Valentine Holmes combined with the winger to bag one for himself.

Another Townsend kick was spilled by Enari Tuala in the 58th minute and young gun Jeremiah Nanai was the beneficiary, pouncing and stepping two defenders to score the Cowboys' fifth try.

The 19-year-old Nanai's impressive season continues, the competition's top try-scoring forward with seven.

Townsend then found a flying Heilum Luki who dotted down with six minutes to play as the Cowboys handed an improved Knights outfit their seventh consecutive loss.

"I'm happy with the way that we responded at halftime," Payten said.

"Come out and kept them scoreless in that second half and it was just probably more confirmation about how important it is that we get our game right, and I don't think we did that for periods in that first half."

Humiliated 50-2 by Melbourne last week, the Knights showed resolve and led at the break thanks greatly to their halves Tex Hoy and Phoenix Crossland and skipper Kalyn Ponga.

Fullback Ponga had only three runs for 54 metres in the first 40 but his involvement gave his big men the go-forward that had North Queensland's defence stretched.

But although seeing improvement from last week, coach Adam O'Brien lambasted their errors and ill-discipline after going scoreless in the second half.

"There's so many areas that I'm really proud of ... but we hold ourselves to high standards and we need to be better in the smart parts of the game," he said.

The Cowboys struck first two minutes in when they opened a left edge hole for Tom Dearden who powered to the line through tackles with momentum sliding him over the line.

Newcastle fired back when Drinkwater knocked on, and their 10m scrum play started with Ponga and ended with Dominic Young scoring on an overlap.

A barnstorming run by Jason Taumalolo in the 25th minute left the Cowboys just metres shy of the try-line, before Drinkwater's cut-out pass found winger Kyle Feldt for his fourth try in three games.

But the Knights then struck twice with a crafty Ponga grubber off the upright landing perfectly for Jacob Saifiti to score.

With 90 seconds left in the half some poor defensive discipline by the hosts gifted Newcastle deep territory and Hoy stepped two defenders before offloading to Chris Randall to score.

But that would be their final points of the night which was soured when they lost Jack Johns to a suspected broken arm as well as Edrick Lee to concussion after a brutal head knock.

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