North Queensland five-eighth Michael Morgan hadn’t played since Origin II, but there was no rust evident from his month-long layoff in the Cowboys’ 36-0 rout of Canterbury on Thursday night.
Morgan produced a breathtaking try assist early in the second half, including a hit and spin to get through the tackle of Bulldogs centre Josh Morris before threading a brilliant grubber off the outside of his boot for Justin O’Neill to score.
It was a scintillating display throughout from the Cowboys, while the dismal Dogs looked anything but a top-four team.
Johnathan Thurston forced five line dropouts in the first half and came up with a freakish pass to put Javid Bowen over for the Cowboys’ third try as the home side opened up a 16-0 halftime lead.
Thurston left the field with a hamstring twinge during the second half in the only downside of the emphatic victory.
Antonio Winterstein finished with a hat-trick after scoring the opening two tries of the match, and streaking away for a last-minute touchdown from yet another Bulldogs handling error.
The comprehensive result marked the fourth time in 2016 the Cowboys have held their opponents scoreless.
The Bulldogs will drop from fourth to sixth on Saturday if Canberra accounts for the Warriors and Brisbane defeats Penrith.