Level-headed North Queensland coach Paul Green admitted that playing a desperate Knights outfit away from Townsville was always going to be tough following their 36-28 loss in Newcastle on Monday night.
With Origin II proving costly for the Cowboys after Matthew Scott (face) and Brent Tate (ACL) were ruled out with long-term injuries, the team was further stricken when halfback Ray Thompson (hamstring) and hooker Rory Kostjasyn (rib cartilage) failed to finish the game.
With the Cowboys finishing the game with 15 fit men, Green gave his players credit where it was due after North Queensland crossed for three late tries to make the scoreline a respectable eight point difference.
"We're under the pump in that regard at the moment. Certainly Origin II hurt us and tonight we copped a little bit more of the same. Credit to our blokes, we had a number of blokes playing out of position out there by the end of it but we still managed to end the game well and some of those blokes showed a lot of courage out there," Green said.
"[Scott and Tate] are both Tests players so when you take Test players out of any team it's going to have a huge impact but again that's the situation we're in so we aren't whinging about it we just have to get on with it."
With the Cowboys falling to their seventh straight away loss this season, Green realises they'll have to start performing in their final five away games or they'll miss their chance at finals football.
"We need to start winning those games. We probably nearly need to win all five of them but it's frustrating because we're a different game defensively when we are away from home compared to when we are so we need to be better in that area," Green said.
"I think we're all feeling a little bit of frustration because we all know we're better than what we're showing."
A sense of disappointment across for board for the Cowboys became more than evident when Johnathan Thurston failed to show up to post-match press conference.
Filling the captain's duties afterwards instead was prop James Tamou who agreed it was in defence that the team needed to lift.
"In this day and age 28 points wins you a game. Obviously we need to be more desperate in defence. We tried to talk ourselves up there but talking only gets you so far and actions speak louder than words so we had to aim up there which we failed to do," Tamou said.
"I thought we started well and I thought we matched them there but then we dozed off in that department and we were playing catch-up footy which isn't always the best way to go so hopefully we'll go back and fix our mistakes."
It doesn't get any easier for the Cowboys this Saturday night as they look to combat their two-match losing streak against South Sydney. With the Rabbitohs winning their past four games in a more than reasonable fashion, the Cowboys realise the challenge ahead.
"It's pretty tough off the short turnaround," Green said. "They're a big, physical side but that's the game. We'll dust ourselves off and we'll turn up again next week."