Jason Taumalolo the man as Cowboys beat Bulldogs

Jason Taumalolo had the most powerful game by a forward in a decade to help North Queensland beat Canterbury 24-16 in the NRL's first closed-doors match.

Taumalolo had a monster first half for the Cowboys, as they ran in four first-half tries to all but wrap the match up in the opening 40 minutes.

The Cowboys lock ran 304 metres in total, according to Fox Sports Stats' provisional numbers, the most by a forward since Steve Price in 2007.

In an extraordinary night at Sydney Olympic Park, the NRL got a look at the new normal in the coronavirus era.

A total of 241 people were at the ground including players, with all asked questions as they entered the one open door about their health and travel history.

A journalist was turned away after only arriving from overseas less than a fortnight before the match.

Bench chairs were a metre apart for interchange players and coaching staff, while messages from fans were shown on the big screen before the match.

Balls were washed every 10 minutes on orders from the league, while every call from trainers and players could be heard clearly.

Even Johnathan Thurston had to determine his Dally M points remotely, under new rules from the NRL.

But there's little doubt who his first pick would have been for man of the match.

Taumalolo was everywhere with his 25 runs, as he ran more metres in the first half than all of the Bulldogs's starting pack combined.

He finished with six tackle busts and one line break to go with his record yardage haul, proving he needs no crowd to inspire him.

His try helped set up a 22-6 half-time lead, when he stayed alive after getting the ball to Francis Molo before collecting an offload to cross.

"He certainly put his hand up," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.

"Maybe I'm used to seeing it. That's just what he does.

"I thought Jordan McLean was outstanding in attack tonight, he had a real purpose for what he wanted to do with the ball."

It came after Coen Hess and Scott Drinkwater ran in for North Queensland's first two tries off poor Joe Stimson reads, with the latter coming directly off a mid-field scrum.

Valentine Holmes had a hand in their other, with a nice cut-out ball putting Ben Hampton over on the left wing.

Canterbury didn't help themselves either.

They completed just 25 sets and missed 32 tackles, as their possession share sat at below 40 per cent for the majority of the match.

Lachlan Lewis scored the game's first try after helping Nick Meaney bust downfield, but was hooked midway through the second half.

Renouf To'omaga and Christian Crichton recorded the only tries of the second half, but by then the Cowboys' advantage was impregnable.

"We're just not giving ourselves a chance," coach Dean Pay said.

"To have 17 errors in the game you just can't win. That's the area we need to get better at."