Cowboys grapple with trust issues
North Queensland coach Paul Green admits that it will take time for his squad to trust the new structures he is endeavouring to put in place and become a genuine premiership threat.
Having come from 16 points down in Round 1, the Cowboys once again gave up first points against Brisbane on Friday night and despite leading inside the final 10 minutes were unable to hold the Broncos at bay, eventually going down 16-12 in front of more than 42,000 fans at Suncorp Stadium.
While the Cowboys have been renowned for their entertaining brand of football inspired largely by co-captain Johnathan Thurston in recent years, Green has spent the pre-season trying to add a harder, more consistent edge to their performances.
In a mistake-riddled yet pulsating clash, the largest lead of the night never exceeded six points and Green believes that his side's inability to stay composed in the critical moments cost them victory.
"At different times we probably felt that we needed to try and conjure something up special rather than just sticking to what we do and trust that we'll get the result in the end," Green said.
"We're not there yet, certainly not where we want to be. I think we just need to have a bit more composure at different times in the game, particularly when the game's on the line. When we're under the pump a bit we just need to stick to what we do.
"Certainly from our point of view would have liked to have controlled the ball a bit better but it was a great contest."
Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott shared the coach's sentiments, suggesting that some old habits are proving hard to break as the side adjusts to a new style under Green's stewardship.
"We probably shouldn't have put ourselves in that position," Scott said of their valiant attempts to snatch the game at the death. "Two points up and we were semi-comfortable and we just lacked a bit of that mentality to get the job done and finish it off.
"The disappointing thing is that we didn't really stick to our game-plan as such. We probably tried a little bit too hard in areas where we've just got to try to stay composed and get through our sets. That will come as a team as we get a bit of rhythm. We never had much rhythm from the start of the game."
The Cowboys were unable to force the Broncos into a line dropout until the final minute of play when Robert Lui grubbered into the in-goal area. On a couple of occasions Johnathan Thurston kicked the ball over the dead-ball line handing the Broncos seven tackles from the ensuing 20-metre restart.
While lamenting the lack of sustained pressure his side was able to mount, Green pointed to the consequences of getting a kick into the in-goal even slightly wrong.
"It's certainly a massive swing in momentum to get seven tackles from a 20-metre tap," Green said. "It's a fine line between rolling one over the dead-ball by a few inches; you really get penalised for it.
"We made some errors in defence there tonight that don't fit in with how we defend and again in attack, we should have been better and should have been able to mount a little bit more pressure at different times during the game."