Cowboys v Bulldogs: Five key points
More Cowboys are coming out of the woodwork to put their hands up for minutes during the Origin period, David Klemmer is doing himself no harm for an Origin call-up, and Michael Morgan keeps producing next to Johnathan Thurston.
Next man up: bit-part Cowboys ready to fill the void during Origin
State of Origin will further deplete the North Queensland forward stocks with Matt Scott and James Tamou soon to be whisked away to represent their states. Filling those voids will be the likes of John Asiata, Kelepi Tanginoa, Ben Hannant and Ben Spina. Not exactly household names.
But coach Paul Green should be quite confident in his contingencies after solid performances all round on Saturday night. Asiata ran for 106 metres on just 10 carries, while Hannant managed 131 off 11 runs. Spina was another good news story for the Cowboys with 95 metres from 10 hitups. The three also kept the line tight with 74 tackles and only one miss.
"I think he's grown in confidence, he's feeling more comfortable with his place in the team. The more experience he gets, the more we see of what we saw tonight, that will become a regular thing when these guys come back into the team too,” Green said of Spina.
Klemmer puts hand up for Origin selection
David Klemmer was a beacon of bright light in his return from a three-week suspension in an otherwise mediocre Dogs pack. He did a mountain of work in his first start to 2015 on Saturday night, running for 143 metres and keeping his defensive line tight up the middle (28 tackles, zero misses).
"We spoke a lot about it beforehand, especially starting Kasiano they're such a big, strong pack and they wanted to kick off and get into us so we knew we had a physical job on our hands," Cowboys prop Matt Scott said after the game.
Morgan becoming a certified match-winner for Cowboys
On a night where Johnathan Thurtston dialled it back to just 'human', it was his sidekick in the halves who took the baton and ran with it. Thurston has been the Cowboys' sole designated match-winner since Matty Bowen left to chase success in the Super League, but with an uncanny show of individual strength in Newcastle two weeks ago that led to a try and another couple of blockbusting runs this week, Michael Morgan is putting his hand up as someone to look for with the game on the line. The 23-year-old is one of the league's most damaging ball runners with the combination of his size (184 centimetres), strength (98 kilograms) and speed.
Morgan has said the thing he will miss about playing fullback was the space to run the ball, yet Green looks to have found a way to deliver space for Morgan from a flatter five-eighth position. In a play that looked a lot like one of his sweeping movements out of fullback last year, Morgan was granted half of the field in which to roam free after the Cowboys loaded the left side for a raid and went right on the next play, which brought about the game's first try.
"Any time 'Morgo' can get some space or at least get one-on-one with a guy because of his speed and his size – he's not a small guy – he's pretty hard to tackle," Green said.
Dogs need more from Tony Williams
The T-Rex has lost its bite. The fear Tony Williams once put in the hearts of opponents is simply not there anymore. His game is riddled with errors and he is not as demanding of the Steeden as someone worth $650,000 per year should be. Round 6 against the Dragons was the last time the 26 year-old registered triple-figure run metres, and again went for just 76 metres from eight carries on Friday night. For a player of Williams' pedigree, he should be looking for double the amount of touches. If Williams is not going to expend a great deal of energy tackling (12 tackles on Saturday), then there is no excuse to go missing on the other side of the ball.
Lachlan Coote is playing fearless footy
Lachlan Coote is showing the rugby league world just why he deserved the rights to North Queensland's fullback jersey after another gutsy performance on Saturday. Coote ran for 196 metres and bagged a try assist, but the most impressive part is the way he has approached contact off kick returns lately. There is no shying away from the defence as Coote takes the most direct path to good yardage more often than not. Some nights Coote will be the finesse guy as second-choice field kicker, and others, like Saturday, he will best impact with his running game. As the weeks roll on, his hands are also becoming safer under the high ball.