Their habit of starting slow has been glossed over by their series of amazing comebacks but a second half surge wasn't enough for the Cowboys on Saturday night at Remondis Stadium – however their coach Paul Green says labelling his team slow starters fails to give the Sharks credit for a big opening to the game.
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The Cowboys had few answers to a belligerent Cronulla defensive line in the first half as the home side scratched out a 14-0 lead at the break with a huge 65 per cent of possession – despite a relatively low error and penalty count (edged 5-4 and 5-3 respectively by Cronulla in the first half).
The Cowboys produced a massive comeback from 30-6 down to beat Parramatta earlier this year and have come from behind in several other games – including 18-0 against Canberra last week in a match they went on to win 32-24.
Green said Cronulla deserved the credit for how they controlled the first half.
"We started okay but they just dominated field position and also possession. In that first half we only had three good ball sets and they had about 11 I think so they were winning that field position battle," he said after the game.
"I thought defensively we were moving pretty well. Probably could've been a bit more desperate on at least one of their tries. They had us under pressure there early. You can talk about our starts but they played well, in particular the first part of that game.
"We need to play better. They turned up ready to play. They were full of energy, they defended well, controlled the ball well. They were certainly up for it and they were better than us."
He noted there was a patch in the second half where his side were well on top but even then weren't able to maintain pressure well enough, particularly through the execution of last-play options.
"You could look at the score board and say it's our starts but I think you need to give Cronulla a bit more credit. Early on in that game they were very good – their kicking game was good, they had us down our end, they had plenty of energy coming off their line defensively they were winning that field position battle," he said.
"Of the tries that were scored I think probably one of them we could have stopped but aside from that I think we defended well considering the amount of pressure we were under."
Cowboys skipper Johnathan Thurston agreed his opponents were the more dominant side.
"Their kicking game was better than ours. Their energy off the defensive line was better than ours. We've got to give them credit, they outplayed us," he said.