Cowboys v Warriors: Five key points
After two weeks they'd rather forget and without Matt Scott who has been battling a back injury, North Queensland's confidence seems to be back, sparked by five-eighth Michael Morgan. Meanwhile, the Warriors have struggled mightily in the two most important games of their season. With multiple defeats in golden point in 2016, it is a clear trend that the Warriors are not standing up when the heat is on.
Confidence returns across the board
Playmakers Michael Morgan and Lachlan Coote were called out during the week both by themselves and by their coach, but it wasn't just them getting the shot in the arm they desperately needed. Morgan set up the first two tries with kicks – an area of his game that has been lacking lately – and Coote had his moments, but it was the entire team that benefitted from what was in essence a tune-up game. The 28-point smashing was just what the doctor ordered for an underperforming pack down on confidence, and the likes of Morgan, Coote and Johnathan Thurston had the chances and the time to operate on the back of it.
Warriors left wanting in big games
After pushing the Raiders more than 80 minutes then beating the hot Panthers and Titans, the Warriors were looking like coming home with a wet sail and ready to pounce come finals time. But for the two steps forward they took in late-July and early-August, they have taken two steps back in the crunch games since. Letting in 12 tries over the past two important games indicates this isn't a team built for the big occasion. They have the leaders and the talent on paper, but it's just not happening on the field. But if history has taught us anything, it's that the Warriors are capable of anything. A 30-point bounce-back win next week is a distinct possibility.
Matt Scott afforded a well-timed rest
If a gruelling Origin period wasn't taxing enough on an ageing body, Cowboys prop Matt Scott suffered two painful blows to the back in consecutive weeks, which resulted in him sitting out Saturday's game. After the game coach Paul Green said that Scott will definitely suit up against the Dogs on Thursday, and if it were a bigger occasion Scott would have taken the field. Saturday proved the perfect night to sit his co-captain out, considering replacement Scott Bolton had one of his better games in years in occupying the starting prop spot. Bolton (189 run metres from 18 hit-ups and 15 tackles without a miss) was just one of three middle forwards who ran over 100 first-half metres, with James Tamou kicking on to make 227m from 22 runs. It all amounts to positives for a pack that did not skip a beat without their most credentialed and inspirational forward.
Mannering, Thompson the Warriors' heart and soul
Without the gut-busting efforts of veteran lock forward Simon Mannering and second-rower Bodene Thompson, the Cowboys would probably have raised the bat to a half century. Instead, the two tackling machines mitigated the damage after the home side ran in 22 points by half time. Considering the lopsided possession count and North Queensland's tendency to power home late after grinding teams to a halt, the second 40 minutes was primed to get ugly for Andrew McFadden's men. Instead, Mannering racked up 69 tackles (zero misses) in 73 minutes and Thompson 43 tackles (one miss) in his 80 minutes to keep the Warriors glued together. While it was glossed over in the Cowboys rout, this was a herculean effort from the Telstra Premiership's second-most prolific tackler in Mannering, who leads all second-rowers in tackles per game.
Coen's a keeper
Coen Hess is a gem in the making. In fact, he is a gem right now. Having just turned 20 years old he is able to hold his own against seasoned veterans, but the most astounding thing is that the 190cm, 110kg monster from Mount Isa switches from edge second-rower in under-20s to fully-fledged middle forward in top-grade. The sky is the limit for Hess, who is just a week out of his teens, and quite simply most NRL clubs would have him in their weekly 17-man team. An extended 52-minute stint off the bench included 50 run metres and 26 tackles without a miss on Saturday.