Cowboys’ breakout beast puts NRL on notice

COWBOYS WINGER STEPS IT UP

Mark down Cowboys winger Murray Taulagi as one of the big improvers of the 2021 season.

After just two tries in the past two seasons, the big flanker now has eight tries in nine games this year.

The flyer is proving a weapon for Todd Payten and bagged his first career hat-trick in the hard-fought win over the Knights.

The 22-year-old also ran for 195 metres and came up with some timely saves in defence, in what may be remembered as his breakthrough game in the NRL.

TITANS PROP EARNS ANOTHER ORIGIN CRACK

Kiwi-born Gold Coast prop Mo Fotuaika broke into the Queensland Origin team for one game last season – and he’s playing better now than when he won his Maroon jumper.

The 21-year-old was the most damaging forward on the field and sealed the Titans’ win over a stubborn Bulldogs side with a dynamic late burst to put fullback AJ Brimson over on Saturday afternoon.

A wrecking ball in attack and defence, Fotuaika ran for 178 metres – more than any forward on the field – and terrorised the tackle-shy Bulldogs defence all afternoon.

Not a big name – but a key man in the Titans’ make-up and set to figure in Origin yet again next month.

WALSH IS GOING TO BE A SUPERSTAR

Last week, Warriors coach Nathan Brown admitted he didn’t quite know what to do with teen sensation Reece Walsh, who he had been using from the bench.

I wrote two words in response on Twitter: “START HIM”.

Now I’m not suggesting for one minute that Brown listened to my tip, but start him he did – and what’s more he did so in Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s fullback spot, in a move that earned plenty of criticism in Kiwi-land.

But Walsh – who I have to point out again was let go by the Broncos a few weeks into the season – produced a dazzling display in the gutsy win over the Tigers.

The 18-year-old created three tries, scored another, ran for 118 metres and set up four line break assists, as well as saving several tries with last-ditch defence.

With RTS going to the dark side in 2022, the Warriors may well have found their fullback for the next decade and more on Friday night.

TOWNSEND JUSTIFIES BIG NEW DEAL

The Cowboys raised some eyebrows by throwing massive dollars to secure cool-headed Sharks playmaker Chad Townsend for the next three seasons a couple of weeks ago.

But in the last-gasp win over the Dragons in the local derby at Kogarah on Friday night, Townsend showed exactly why he justified the big pay packet.

The veteran half didn’t have his best game in the regulation 80 minutes, making three handling errors and fluffing a couple of kicks.

But in extra time, Townsend came into his own in a match the Dragons should have won.

Early in the golden point period, the Dragons were in perfect position to land the killer blow field goal but inexplicably, ran the ball wide on the final tackle.

From there, Townsend took control, steering an injury-depleted Sharks team downfield and then landing a precision field goal to give his team a much-needed win.

Throw his experience into the talented young Cowboys team and Todd Payten may well have a potent combination in 2022 and beyond.

MILESTONES IN BIG BRONCOS BOUNCE-BACK

Lost in all the drama of Victor Radley’s night of mayhem on Saturday night at the SCG were a host of milestones set by the Broncos.

The Broncos – paying $11 in a two-horse race with many bookies – produced the upset of the season against a stunned Roosters side.

It was a landmark win for the Broncos – their 500th victory since joining the NRL back in 1988.

It was also their first win at the famous SCG – and their first win anywhere in Sydney for nearly two years.

The club has been going through some lean times of late but if they continue to show the spirit they displayed against the injury-ravaged Roosters, they will win plenty more games before the year is out.

BELLAMY’S MAGIC WORKS AGAIN ON SMITH

Craig Bellamy continues to work his magic trick of turning fair players into very good ones, with Reimis Smith his latest project.

The former Bulldogs centre already has 34 tackle breaks for Melbourne this season – the most of his career – after a mere 11 games.

In his four seasons at Canterbury, his highest try haul was 12 – he is now on seven less than halfway through this year and should beat that tally easily.

Smith’s solo try against Canberra, where he slashed through four would-be defenders out wide – was pure grace and power and the tall centre is developing into yet another strike weapon for the Storm.

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