Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston says the team will need to get rid of the defensive lapses that marred their performance late in the first half against the Sharks. Credit: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos
Cowboys utility Ray Thompson has revealed the side spoke at halftime during their 36-18 win over Cronulla
at Remondis Stadium on Saturday night about the Sharks’ new-found ability to launch miracle comebacks.
After not scoring a point in three successive games, the Sharks broke their scoring drought in fine style, coming back from 22-0 down at Brisbane in Round 16 to win 24-22 – the biggest comeback in the side’s history.
Not content with that record, they broke it a week later with an even more amazing 30-28 win over defending premiers the Roosters in Round 17 at Allianz Stadium, after having been down 24-0.
After giving up a horrible start against the Cowboys on Friday night to be down 16-0 early, the Sharks scored two tries in the last five minutes before the halftime break – and almost nabbed a third – to head in just four points behind and with plenty of momentum.
“It was talked about at half time, their comebacks, it's no secret they've had some really good wins recently,” Thompson told NRL.com.
“We talked about our completion rate – it sort of dropped down but we defended really well for each other in parts of that game. Some of our fluency wasn't there in patches but we built momentum so that's something we're going to have to work on and just staying a bit more gritty around that period where teams get a bit more momentum and put them to the test.”
He said the second half – which the Cowboys won 20-6 – had been based on the side’s defence, having to hold their line early after giving the Sharks a chance to attack shortly after the resumption.
“They had a smell early on in that half and we defended back-to-back sets, a couple of calls went against us and we defended again,” Thompson said.
“When we got our chance we really put them to the sword and executed well in that second half.
“We'll enjoy the win tonight but we've also got to build off that and continue that momentum. There were parts where we were fluent and had continuity, we'll work on that and keep improving on that and the areas where we let them build momentum we'll try and sort those little areas out and be a little grittier and tougher.”
Coach Paul Green was also happy with the performance overall, but said he hadn’t been overly worried at halftime despite the sniff of a comeback.
“I was still pretty comfortable [at half time], we just clocked off a little bit in defence there,” Green said after the game.
“That try [Cronulla’s first, after 35 minutes of play] and our next defensive set just took the foot off the gas and invited them back in the game but at half time we spoke about it. I thought we were better in the second half too, we were under pressure there from the start with that error early on but we defended well I thought.”
He said there were patches where the Cowboys were really good and patches they can still fix up but as long as they keep a good feeling within the group and get a few players back [including Queensland prop Matt Scott who is recovering from a fractured cheekbone] within the next few weeks they can hopefully keep moving forward.
“It's important for us just to play well, to play consistently. We've got Origin out of the way now, everyone back on deck, it's about getting back to how we were playing earlier in the year and finishing the year off well.”
Captain Johnathan Thurston said the challenge now was for the team to back up that effort next week against the Bulldogs.
“Like Greeny said, we need to be better in a few areas. Our last two defensive sets before halftime were pretty poor – we can't afford to do that next week but very pleasing to get the win,” he said.