Cowboys vow to blow Eels away
North Queensland, it's time to bring the heat.
That's the sentiment from fullback Lachlan Coote ahead of their home clash with Parramatta on Monday night.
All year the Cowboys have been inflicting gentleman's defeats on teams, with seven winning margins of six points or less in their 17 games to date this season. They have been successful but one thing lacking is the instinct to keep the blowtorch alight.
That is part of the reason that, at 13-4, their for-and-against reads a measly +52 when teams either side of them sit at +175 (Broncos) and +187 (Roosters).
Interestingly, at this point last year the Cowboys actually had a negative win-loss record (8-9) yet held a for-and-against of +78.
Those numbers in themselves show that this year's Cowboys are more level-headed week-to-week and can close out tight games, while the erratic side of last year would lose the close ones yet blow teams out of the water a week later.
In fact, the Cowboys were 2-6 at this point last year in games separated by six points or fewer, compared with 7-2 in 2015.
North Queensland racked up six victories by 20 points and above at home last season, but not once have they even come close in this campaign – their largest home win was 11 points v Brisbane in Round 10 thanks to a couple of late tries to Michael Morgan after the game was locked up with 10 minutes remaining.
But Coote says the Eels will be the unlucky recipient of a ruthless streak that has been bubbling at the surface ever since Cronulla pantsed them on their home patch in Round 16.
When asked whether this is a game in which they can be ruthless and prove a point to the rest of the league, Coote replied: "It definitely is. We're not going to go out there and take them lightly but they've got some injuries and stuff like that and they've got players out.
"All we're focused on is us so if we focus on us and get our preparation right and stick to the game plan, who knows what can happen."
Centre Kane Linnett added: "We've just got to focus on our individual roles and if we execute that I'm sure we will be fine and hopefully the points come on the back of that.
"We haven't really put an 80 minute performance together all year so it'd be really good to get that this week. Leading up to the finals we really need to start playing for the whole 80 minutes. We have plenty to strive for (on Monday).
"We've been a lot better defensively... it's quite clear in the last two weeks we have been doing that."
Conversely, with the combination of Parramatta's mass injury toll and current off-field drama, Monday can be a chance to prove a point of their own to both their supporters and the league that this is a club not willing to back down from a fight.
While this one shapes as a lopsided contest on paper, the various subplots make this 2nd v 12th battle one of the round's most intriguing.