Warriors humiliated by Cowboys in Townsville
Last weekend, the Warriors had their darkest day. In Townsville, they had their darkest night.
And it was incredibly painful to watch, as the Warriors went down 52-10 to a rampant Cowboys side, inflicting a defeat that sits up there with the club's worst.
Brian McClennan's chronically inexperienced team was utterly dreadful in the nine-try rout.
Offering little in attack and prone on defence, the Warriors, who have now lost five on the trot and have officially ended their top eight aspirations, seemed rudderless, leaderless and incapable of mounting anything resembling a period of pressure on the Cowboys.
Make no mistake, the Cowboys, led by the mercurial Jonathan Thurston and Matt Bowen, were in sublime form, but any side that leaks four tries in the first 20 minutes is deserving of a towelling.
Indeed, on an evening when gutsy Kiwi kayaker Lisa Carrington was creating history in London, the Warriors were putting in a performance little better than that of infamous Olympic swimmer Eric the Eel.
It looked like men versus boys for large parts of the match, because, essentially it was.
Shaved of so much experience this season through injury, McClennan has been forced to promote youngsters to fill crucial spots in the playing roster.
And while promise exists in the likes of Sam Lousi, Carlos Tuimavave and Konrad Hurrell, the Warriors have turned into a largely toothless beast this season.
The signing of Storm second rower Todd Lowrie, does little to inspire the fanbase that good times are ahead next season.
From the outset, things were going to be tough for the Warriors against a team they hadn't beaten in Townsville since 2002.
Coming off the back of their 45-4 embarrassment by the Sharks last weekend, the side had been shorn of hard-working prop Ben Matulino, and remained without skipper Simon Mannering.
And while injured standoff James Maloney was included late on, back rower Elijah Taylor missed out, travelling back to Auckland after learning about the death of his father, Ron.
After a sublime opening set by the visitors, early momentum was spoiled when Hurrell shoulder-charged Cowboys opposition number, Kane Linnett.
From the resulting set, the Cowboys powered up field and got their first points on the board when Bowen crossed the line, following his own grubber, that was cleverly tipped to him from former Warrior, Brent Tate.
Winger Ashley Graham would be the next to profit five minutes later as the Warriors defence proved wafer thin, with Tate again the supplier.
The visitors mounted their first raid, but on a Shaun Johnson bomb, Bowen was able to wrestle the ball from the arms of giant winger Manu Vatuvei.
Three tackles later and former Kiwi Antonio Winterstein was rocketing down the left hand touch for the Cowboys' third.
Graham would grab his second, and while Tuimavave crossed late in the half for the Warriors, there was little hope of a comeback for the visitors.
It would only take four minutes for the massacre to continue in the second stanza, when Linnett crossed.
Graham would complete his hat trick, while Gavin Cooper, Brent Tate and Aaron Payne would also cross the chalk to rub it in.
Vatuvei would score in the final seconds of the match, notching his 100th try for the club, but it will not be one he will want to remember, in an embarrassing team display.
The pain didn't end at the final score line for the Warriors, with Kevin Locke leaving the match halfway through the first half with a high ankle sprain.
North Queensland Cowboys 52 (A Graham 3 M Bowen G Cooper K Linnett A Payne B Tate A Winterstein tries J Thurston 8 goals) NZ Warriors 12 (C Tuimavave M Vatuvei tries J Maloney 2 goals) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: Chris James, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 13,616