Were the Broncos really that good in their 44-22 win on Friday night or are the Cowboys on the verge of a disastrous start to season 2015?
Hunt and Milford are finding their rhythm
Adding a precocious talent to the breakout player of 2014 always appeared on paper as a match made in heaven and Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford showed on Friday night how effective they can be as the Broncos' halves pairing. Both men aggressively tested the defence with their running games, combining for more than 200 running metres and creating time and space for the men outside them. Milford's zip seemed to make a return on the left edge, setting up a try for Corey Parker with a perfectly-timed pass for an Alex Glenn line break, while Hunt crossed for the opening try with a powerful surge close to the line and displayed sound game management.
But it was their willingness to run the ball that most impressed captain Justin Hodges.
"'Hunty' and 'Milf' were great, they attacked the line and that's the best part of their game is when they're running," Hodges said. "When they're running the ball we're a lot better side, when they're backing their ability."
Paul Green should at least know where the panic button is
Cowboys coach Paul Green won't react to a third straight loss with mass sackings but the manner in which his team's defence was so openly exploited by the Broncos will have alarm bells ringing in the distance. The Cowboys missed a total of 29 tackles across the 80 minutes and with some fundamental errors coming out of their own end Green has some serious concerns about how his team responds under pressure.
In commentary for Channel Nine Ray Hadley accused North Queensland of raising the white flag in surrender as they conceded three tries in the final eight minutes of the first half, their goal-line defence splintering before Green's very eyes.
"We're certainly not defending well at the moment which really needs to be the backbone of our game," Green said. "As soon as we come under a bit of pressure we tend to fracture rather than coming together as a team."
Classy Kahu only a temporary solution
Any aspirations Jordan Kahu may have to make the fullback position his own at the Broncos were quickly doused by coach Wayne Bennett in the wake of the 24-year-old's finest game in the top grade. With confidence growing with each game at the back, Kahu (pictured) was once again fearless in defence and in returning the ball, he laid on two perfectly executed blink-and-you'll-miss-them passes for winger Lachlan Maranta to score a first half double and then scored one of his own when he powered through the attempted tackles of Johnathan Thurston and Kane Linnett in the 56th minute.
With Darius Boyd's recovery from an achilles injury progressing well it begged the question as to whether Bennett would be faced with a selection headache should Kahu's upward trend continue in the coming months.
"Nup. I've got no selection headache," was Bennett's blunt response. "They're all getting better; he's just one of them. I'm trying to get a standard at that we can perform at every week and get some confidence out of that."
Coote's addition offers Cowboys nice balance
When the ball was sent to Lachlan Coote for him to put it onto his left boot for the Cowboys' opening kick of the game in general play it was clear the former Panther was included to help lighten the load on Thurston. With Coote making his club debut at fullback it pushed Michael Morgan to five-eighth where his size and speed proved too much for opposite Anthony Milford in scoring the Cowboys' opening try in the 17th minute. For someone who had not played in the NRL since September 8, 2013 Coote was all class in a well-beaten team and appeared to fit seamlessly into the Cowboys' set-up.
Although reluctant to praise any of his players following such a lacklustre performance, coach Paul Green was pleased with Coote's contribution in his first game for the club.
"I thought he had some nice touches. For him it's about getting back, he hasn't played a lot of footy for a long time now," Green said.
Horror start not insurmountable
There are daunting assignments head of them over the next three weeks against the Storm, Panthers and Rabbitohs but the Cowboys have the cattle capable of bouncing back according to Broncos coach Wayne Bennett.
While a 0-3 start to the season is cause for concern, there is the very real prospect that the Cowboys could be winless through six rounds and have their confidence battered even further.
As the Broncos moved into the top eight with their 44-22 win the Cowboys fell to the bottom rung of the ladder but Bennett believes they can fight their way out.
"Yeah it's tough but you can do it," Bennett said of recovering from a poor start.
"The problem is that each week that you don't get a result you lose a bit more confidence. It's all about confidence but they can do that, they've got the quality players there.
"They're just having a bit of a tough trot at the moment, it happens to us all. We could be 0-3 as well. It's such a fine line so you don't give up on them I can tell you."