Cowboys upbeat despite loss to Storm
On a night of disappointment where an 11-game home winning streak fell by the wayside, North Queensland are hanging their hat on a second-half shutout of the Storm in their 16-8 Round 21 Telstra Premiership loss.
The Cowboys were humbled with a couple of early first-half Storm tries and never really found a groove with ball in hand, yet turned in arguably their best 40-minute span of defence all season to keep the visitors scoreless in the second half.
The decision to take a 2-0 lead just five minutes into the match encapsulated the entire 80, as Melbourne's record-breaking defence kept North Queensland to just one try all night.
Post-game, fill-in halfback Rory Kostjasyn pointed toward the early moments as those which shaped the game.
"They played with a little more intensity in the first 20 minutes and we didn't match them and that hurt us," he said.
"But we were trying very hard. You look at our defensive effort in that second half; you don't have a team like the Melbourne Storm not score a point for 40 minutes if you're not putting in effort.
"It wasn't through lack of effort tonight. A few missed tackles put us under the pump and obviously a few penalties."
In attack, the premiers' late-set execution was a shambles without their chief Johnathan Thurston.
Five-eighth Michael Morgan stepped forward as the No. 1 play-making option, generating their only try and putting boot to ball 13 times without much success, while Lachlan Coote – who boasts the league's best kicking game for a fullback – only posted three.
But that stagnant attack matters little compared with the overall attitude they played with, as call-up utility Ray Thompson noted after the game.
"I think Melbourne Storm is the best team in the comp. Although they're not first, they're the best team, they're a quality side they've got great players and I think any other team in the competition, if we played this good we may have come away with the points," he said.
"We take a lot of positives out of this, our effort was great for the majority of that game.
"If we had applied that [for the full game] and repelled one or two of their tries then we get away with that, so I think if we apply this effort for the rest of the season we will be a hard team to beat."