Second half fade a worry for Cowboys
Cowboys coach Paul Green described his side's 32-20 elimination final win over Brisbane as a "good game" post-match but in worrying signs for next week, the Cowboys simply dropped their bundle for a large portion of the second half.
They let through three tries in the space of just seven minutes at one stage and the majority of Brisbane's fruit came to bear on the left-hand side against inexperienced outside pairing Tautau Moga and Kyle Feldt.
After slipping from 24-0 in front to just 24-14, the ship was eventually righted by a try to fullback Michael Morgan, with the side doing enough in the final 15 minutes to hold on for the win.
Despite some obvious nerves from all involved, substitute hooker Ray Thompson said he was pleased with how the Cowboys youngsters kept their cool under pressure.
"The nerves were [evident] at times. I think there were times in that second half nerves were creeping in there but we just had to get back to our job. I think [all our young guys] handled the situation pretty well, especially in that first half," Thompson told NRL.com.
"During the week I think [the predominant emotion] was more excitement than anything, for the young guys. We were playing footy and everyone knows it’s finals footy and anything can happen. I think everyone was excited and ready to go."
Five-eighth Robert Lui added: "They handled themselves good. Jase [Taumalolo] has come on in leaps and bounds. He knows his role and he’s a leader among us. He’s a big boy and leads from the front and I reckon he’s done well off the back of the old fellas like Jimmy Tamou, Ashton Sims, Thumper [Matt Scott] and Coops."
While the two playmakers lauded their younger teammates for calmness under finals intensity, the real steadying influence on Saturday night came from figureheads Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott.
After the three-try burst had pressure mounting on North Queensland, communication was trending in the other direction.
Lui would not go in to specifics, but said that after the third Brisbane try both Thurston and Scott rounded up the troops to demand conviction for the final 20 minutes.
"It was Johnno, our captains [who broke the ice]. Our captains just said 'we can be better'.
"We took [the spray], it happens. He’s Johnno, he’s real passionate, you know how he is. We weren’t good enough at the back end of that game and we let a few soft tries and we could be better but we won and we’re going to look at that game [in review] and then look forward."
To earn a match-up with South Sydney at the Grand Final qualifier in two weeks, North Queensland know they can ill-afford to again fall off the rails when they face the Roosters on Friday.
"We need to be better for Sydney, that’s for sure. They’re too good to be giving away little mistakes to," Lui said.