Cowboys v Dragons: Five key points
North Queensland dominated St George Illawarra in their Round 5 NRL Telstra Premiership clash. Here are five key points from the home side's shut out of the Dragons.
Javid Bowen impresses on debut
Earlier in the week he admitted that carrying on one of North Queensland's most famous surnames amplified some of the pressure heading into his debut, but 23-year-old Javid Bowen acquitted himself nicely on Saturday. In attack he played a role similar to Kane Linnett's, with strong carries (15 carries for 112 metres) early in the tackle count to help out his forwards, and in defence he was solid in making 12 tackles without a miss. The game-sealing try in the 55th minute was the cherry on top of a solid first game, and he will likely keep his place in the side that faces Penrith next Saturday.
"I thought he was pretty impressive. Got a try on debut and had some really tough carries… off the scrums, taking those one-out carries are a tough carry," co-captain Johnathan Thurston said after the game.
"I thought he got on his front foot multiple times when he was carrying the ball, so it was a good debut for him."
Dragons look lost in attack
They are by far the league's worst attacking team, having scored just six tries over the first five rounds. While Dragons coach Paul McGregor says that his side has been adjusting their attacking structures, the weeks are already coming and going very quickly. Something needs to change, and McGregor says his team needs to be a bit more accountable for the scoring droughts.
"We've been tinkering with it for a while now, we've just got to take a bit of accountability and ownership of it," he said.
"We will work hard – we're a hard-working group, we know that – and re-group over the next five days together and come up with a good performance next Thursday.
The Dragons' outside backs (No. 1-5) actually made more metres (586 metres) than the entire forward pack including interchanges (No. 8 and above), which managed a meagre 542 metres.
There is no denying the skill of backs such as Josh Dugan and Jason Nightingale, but this method of gain is just not sustainable. Forwards are the players meant to gain their side the bulk of yardage, however not one member of the Dragons' pack reached triple figures against the Cowboys. It is also one of the reasons they are finding points so hard to come by.
Lachlan Coote is undeniably important to Cowboys' success
Coote is the best playmaking custodian in the NRL at the moment, and the Cowboys' second-most influential attacking player. Let that sink in.
The latest rumours have him being courted by the team he skilfully demolished (two try assists, three line-break assists) on Saturday – a team that clearly needs some divine intervention with ball in hand. But his value to one of the top three teams in the competition, and the pressure he takes off Johnathan Thurston, cannot be overstated.
The Cowboys have a potential 'once-in-a-generation' talent in Kalyn Ponga waiting in the wings, but Coote's all-round game is itself a very rare commodity.
Dragons defence strong in first half
Credit must go to the Dragons' defence, especially on its goal line, for keeping the Cowboys to just 12 points in a one-sided first half. The Red V proved that they know how to shut down accomplished attacking teams such as the Cowboys before their volume of defensive effort was felt in the early-middle stages of the second half. Early in the game the Cowboys forced three consecutive sets which were flaunted, before Gavin Cooper crossed for first points – a controversial decision in itself.
If their attack can match their defence, the Dragons will give the top teams a lot of headaches throughout the season.
Thurston's goal-kicking on point
The Cowboys halfback is on fire in front of the sticks over the first five rounds, kicking goals at a spectacular 22/24 (92 per cent). In a time where every point is important and penalty goals are a popular choice for teams receiving penalties from close range, goal-kickers are arguably the most important they have ever been.