A hamstring injury to Johnathan Thurston has soured another emphatic home victory for North Queensland after their 36-0 NRL thumping of Canterbury in Townsville.
Thurston starred as the Cowboys opened up a 20-0 lead over the Bulldogs after 45 minutes on Thursday night before the superstar playmaker was forced to leave the field.
He didn't return.
Clive Churchill medallist Thurston was confident the injury wouldn't leave him sidelined for long. However early indications were he could miss around two weeks.
"It's not too bad - it is just more of a precaution," Thurston told the Nine Network.
"I felt a twinge when I put in a grubber kick and, when I went to run, I couldn't accelerate.
"I should be right (for next week). It is just cotton wool."
North Queensland didn't let up after Thurston's injury, piling on three more tries in his absence to embarrass the Bulldogs at 1300 Smiles Stadium in the opening game of round 20.
Antonio Winterstein scored three tries for the home side, while Julian O'Neill scored two, with Jason Taumalolo laying a tremendous platform up front.
"That was our most-complete performance of the year," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
"Defence is the hardest part of the game to get right and I was pleased with that tonight."
On Thurston's injury, Green said: "It wasn't one of those gunshot ones."We have a long turnaround. He was upbeat. A win always helps. Hopefully, he will be alright."
The loss throws doubt on the Bulldogs' premiership claims, after they came into the match on the back of four straight wins. The visitors were outclassed across the park in a match they will want to quickly forget.
Dogs coach Des Hasler was scathing of his side.
"We were dreadful," he said.
"It was disappointing, no doubt about it. There were just too many unforced errors.
"It was poor execution from us and we paid the price. We will take the opportunity to learn some lessons from it."
The win consolidates premiers North Queensland's spot in the top four, while Canterbury could slip below that if results go against them during the remainder of round 20.
The Cowboys opened with two tries in the first eight minutes through Winterstein to set up an early 12-0 lead and never looked back.
Javid Bowen's four-pointer in the 24th minute gave North Queensland a 16-0 halftime lead and, when Justin O'Neill scored in the 45th minute, the match was all but over.
Ethan Lowe, O'Neill and Winterstein only added to the Bulldogs' woes, all crossing for tries as Thurston sat sidelined with ice strapped to his leg.
Canterbury completed at just 63 per cent, making a number of uncharacteristic errors in the North Queensland humidity.
"It just wasn't there for us tonight," Bulldogs playmaker Josh Reynolds said.The Bulldogs are the third side North Queensland have kept scoreless in Townsville this year, alongside the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra.
The Cowboys have outscored opposition teams 303 to 108 in their unbeaten nine home matches in 2016.