Rabbitohs prop Tom Burgess is brought down by Cowboys defenders at 1300 SMILES Stadium in Round 16.
With their backs against the wall, the Cowboys simply found a will to win to overcome the visiting Rabbitohs on Saturday night.

And it wasn’t their 14-0 lead after the first 10 minutes of action that most impressed coach Paul Green but rather their work on the other side of the ball.

At training during the week, Green demanded an attitude adjustment and peddled just the one agenda: The need to outwork the opposition. And that’s precisely what his side did.

“Very happy with our energy and how we started the game and in particular our attitude toward defence, it was very good,” he said.

“They are a good team, they are a proud team and we always knew that was going to happen, but it was a good strong, committed effort by us so I was really pleased by that. We needed a really good performance for 80 minutes and we really needed to respond after last week’s game.”

But as sweet as a rebound win over top-four opposition feels, the Cowboys are all too familiar with the feeling of soul-crushing defeat after a promising week such as this, something Johnathan Thurston acknowledges and intends to rectify.

“The challenge for us now is to put in another good performance next week and we need to be better in areas. The fact of the matter is, especially in that second half, we need to come out with a bit more intent than we did, but we haven’t had a win in a while so we need to enjoy what comes tonight,” he said.

“We knew that was going to happen, we knew they were going to respond after half-time and we didn’t respond too well, the game nearly got away from us but we hung in there.”

These days, it’s not a Cowboys game unless there are contentious refereeing decisions and Green was quick to pull up what he saw as a missed 40/20 from Thurston in the dying minutes.

“(I am) a little bit perplexed by a few of the decisions tonight. The 40/20, the Sam Burgess knock-on at the end there and I thought the interpretation of the ruck; we couldn’t seem to generate much ruck speed at all and they seemed to definitely get away with a bit more I thought.”

Thurston added: “I was asking him (on-field referee Ben Cummins) to go upstairs (on the 40/20) and as usual, (he) wouldn’t respond to me.”

Looking forward, Green has earmarked the next three away games as critical toward their chances of making the top eight.

“(The next few weeks are) really important for us. Being in the middle of the Origin too, we've got another game in that period so hopefully the footy gods can be a bit kinder to us. Certainly we paid a pretty hefty price after the second one but it’s important we build off tonight’s win and keep it going. We get a bye in there which will be good and we can freshen up and finish on a run."