Johnathan Thurston’s North Queensland Cowboys defeated Leeds Rhinos to win the World Club Challenge.
The Cowboys’ success at Headingley completed a 3-0 victory for Australia’s National Rugby League over England’s Super League in the World Club Series.
The two sides had been locked at 4-4 at half-time but Cowboys captain and Golden Boot winner Thurston scored one of their six second-half tries.
Leeds forward Mitch Garbutt was sent off late on for punching James Tamou.
Kane Linnett, Kyle Feldt, Lachlan Coote and Justin O’Neill – on two occasions – also crossed to confirm the Cowboys as the best club side in the world for the first time in their history.
- North Queensland’s victory as it happened
Aussies rule again
Australian clubs have won each of the last four annual World Club Challenge games, with Leeds’ success against Manly in 2012 being the last time an English side lifted the trophy.
Leeds’ display, for the first 40 minutes at least, restored some English pride following heavy defeats for St Helens and Wigan Warriors in the other two World Club Series matches in the previous two days.
The Rhinos, chasing a record fourth World Club Challenge victory, went into the contest as huge underdogs, given their winless start to the Super League season and their lengthy list of injured first-team players.
Leeds captain Rob Burrow cancelled out Michael Morgan’s first-half opener, but Thurston’s influence grew as the Cowboys surged well clear in the second period.
The half-back was involved in the majority of their tries, most notably when his high kick was spilled by Leeds youngster Ash Handley, allowing Scotland centre Linnett to score a minute into the second period and giving the visitors an advantage they would not relinquish.
Australia international Thurston ensured he would collect the only major rugby league honour that had previously eluded him in his glittering career when he crossed the try-line himself with 15 minutes remaining.
And Leeds’ second-half misery was completed when Garbutt was dismissed for striking opposition prop Tamou, sparking an ugly altercation involving almost every player on the field in the closing stages.
North Queensland coach Paul Green told BBC Radio 5 live sports extra: “I was really happy with the way we controlled the game in the second half.
“Leeds came out in the first half and really stuck it to us, which we knew they would do, but I’m really pleased with our second-half effort.
“Johnathan Thurston is a handy bloke to have on your team. I’d rather have him playing for us than against us. He’ll need a bigger trophy room when he gets home.”
Leeds: Hardaker; Handley, Watkins, Moon, Hall; Sutcliffe, Lilley; Galloway, Burrow, Cuthbertson, Delaney, Ferres, Singleton.
Replacements: Mullally, Garbutt, Keinhorst, Walters.
North Queensland: Coote; Feldt, O’Neill, Linnett, Winterstein; Morgan, Thurston; Scott, Granville, Tamou, Cooper, Lowe, Taumalolo.
Replacements: Kostjasyn, Asiata, Bolton, Hannant.
Referee: Richard Silverwood