Kirra Dibb has delivered a playmaking masterclass to pilot North Queensland to an inspired 31-20 upset win over reigning NRWL premiers Newcastle.
Dibb, the 2022 NRWL player of the year, showcased her full array of talents as the Cowboys overcame an early 10-0 deficit and the second-half sin-binning of impact forward April Ngatunpuna to record their historic first victory in the expanded women's premiership.
In the second game of the Belmore Sports Ground double-header, new NRLW club Wests Tigers beat Cronulla 10-0.
Tigers winger Jakiya Whitfeld went close to setting a competition record for run-metres with a stunning 292m, just eight metres short of Gold Coast fullback Evania Pelite's record of 300m set last year.
Earlier classy halfback Dibb set up North Queensland's last two tries that sealed victory, produced an important 40-20 kick and landed two conversions, a penalty and the decisive field goal that broke a 20-20 deadlock with seven minutes remaining on Sunday.
A hero of Newcastle's 2022 grand final triumph over Parramatta, Dibb's player-of-the-match display denied her old team the chance to return to the top of the ladder.
The Knights seemed set to enjoy a cruisy afternoon when winger Sheridan Gallagher and centre Shanice Parker both crossed in the opening eight minutes to give the titleholders their 10-0 start.
But North Queensland snatched a surprise 12-10 halftime lead after quickfire tries to centre Jasmine Peters and prop Jetaya Faifua.
Ngatunpuna's sin-binning and reporting for a high tackle in the 41st minute looked to be a turning point as Newcastle established a 20-12 lead in her absence with a second try to Gallagher and one to front-rower Rima Butler.
But the never-say-die Cowboys hit back to level the scores at 20-20 through winger Vitalina Naikore and second-rower Bree Chester before Dibb stepped up to take control when the match was on the line.
First she struck an ice-cool field goal.
Then her step and offload put Sareka Mooka in for a try in the 66th minute before Dibb completed a stunning performance with a clever grubber-kick for Naikore to complete a try-scoring double for the former Fijiana Drua rugby star.
In the final match of round two of the NRLW, the Tigers took a 10-0 lead at halftime and defended with grit in the second half to remain undefeated.
Apps stormed over in the 17th minute and then saved a try before Whitfield ran the length of the field.
Australia Rugby Sevens product Whitfeld had earlier saved a try with a ball-and-all tackle over the tryline and showcased her electrifying speed in her try when she swooped on a loose ball.