If the Wests Tigers were feeling the heat before their trip to Townsville, it has been turned up a few notches after North Queensland humiliated them in a record-breaking 64-6 win on Saturday night.
The Cowboys tore the injury-ravaged and dysfunctional club apart to surge into the NRL top four and set a new club record for most number of points scored in an NRL match and biggest winning margin – eclipsing the 60-8 thrashing it handed to South Sydney in 2003.
They also extended their winning streak at home to eight games.
Matthew Wright had a hat-rick of tries within 15 minutes of kick-off.
Barnstorming backrower Jason Taumalolo, winger Tautau Moga and Antonio Winterstein all crossed for two tries each while Tariq Sims, Michael Morgan and Kane Linnett added four-pointers in the 11 tries-to-one rout.
Halfback Johnathan Thurston rubbed salt into the wounds by jokingly taking his last conversion attempt left-footed.
The Cowboys needed to win by a margin of 22 points or more to push the Sydney Roosters out of fourth spot, at least temporarily.
They had scored that many points in less than 27 minutes.
The off-field turmoil at the Tigers has been well documented, with talk of an ever-widening rift between captain Robbie Farah, coach Mick Potter and chief executive Grant Mayer refusing to go away.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the already injury-hit Tigers lost halfback Luke Brooks (shoulder), veteran winger Pat Richards (hamstring), Bodene Thompson and Sitaleki Akauola (both suspended) and the late scratching of prop Keith Galloway, forcing seven changes in the team.
The Tigers conceded 13 line breaks to one, made twice as many tackles and half as many metres and were never in the hunt against a Cowboys outfit surging into premiership contention.
The tone for the night was set from the kick-off, with young fullback Mitchell Moses allowing the ball to go into touch, gifting the Cowboys easy early possession.
It didn’t get better, throwing the ball into touch and giving a wayward pass to Chris Lawrence with his next two touches.
As if things could get any worse, Farah was left writhing in pain after copping an accidental kick to the midriff from teammate Ava Seumanufagai.
Aaron Woods finally broke the drought when he scored for the Tigers in the 59th minute, but they knocked on from the ensuing restart and Moga crossed from the next set.