Cowboys forwards rise to the occasion
They were physically embarrassed by their opponents in the last two weeks and North Queensland's forwards knew a response needed to come on Saturday night against the Warriors.
Superstar lock forward Jason Taumalolo shook the shackles of recent mediocre form to blast New Zealand off the park in a dominant 213-metre performance that was backed up by stand-in starter Scott Bolton (189 metres) and James Tamou (227).
Things will undoubtedly get tougher next week with a five-day turnaround against a hungry Bulldogs pack at their spiritual home ground of Belmore, but for now coach Paul Green is satisfied with his big boppers.
"There were a lot of really good efforts tonight, which I was really pleased with," Green said post-game.
"Scott Bolton was outstanding starting instead of Matt Scott. I thought he was – if not one of our best – close to our best player on the paddock and was well backed up by [Patrick] Kaufusi, Ben Spina.
"It's funny, you only need to be a little bit off, or four or five [players] are a little bit off in a couple of areas and it's enough to spread throughout your game.
"We needed a bit of a change in attitude and a change in effort and we got that tonight."
Taumalolo's 18-carry, 175-metre first-half effort was made even more special by the fact that he played out the entire first 40 minutes, which is almost unheard of for the middle forward.
While his stats over the previous two weeks show decent performances, Taumalolo's trademark half-breaks on every hit-up were almost non-existent, and he – speaking like the emerging pack leader that he is – knew he was the man to turn it around this week.
"With the loss of 'Thumper' (Scott) just before the game we needed to step up as a pack and the last three weeks we haven’t been doing that. I did my best, put my hand up and carry the team, get us going forward," he said.
"To come out and make a statement like we did is a confidence-booster for the boys.
"The boys are carrying a couple of injuries and Matt Scott's back is playing up obviously, but I'm confident [in the team] motivation-wise, and that the boys will lift.
"I guess [Scott and Tamou] will have a lighter load heading into Thursday. But I'll look to do back-to-back carries or back-to-back tackles if the boys need me to. Got to look after the older ones."