The inability to keep calm and execute has been a prevailing theme from North Queensland's two losses to Melbourne this year, but five-eighth Michael Morgan says his side is now well-versed in the required mentality to face the competition's best.
Co-captain Matt Scott labelled their Round 10 loss at Suncorp Stadium a lesson in "big game football", while after their Round 21 loss coach Paul Green noted that his side were below par in last-play options as Melbourne "controlled the game well".
Despite the premiers finishing both games with a solid completion rate of 79 per cent, the Storm applied the clamps over the 160 minutes to conceded a total of only 22 points.
However, Morgan is confident heading into Saturday's qualifying final, saying that recent games have given the Cowboys good practice in patience.
"[Keeping calm] is important. We'll look to be patient when we have the footy, and if we are down their end for a couple of sets we're not always thinking 'score' or that kind of thing; we're thinking about building pressure and staying in the game," Morgan said.
"I think we have been pretty good over the last few weeks. There were times in the last few games where we were down on the other team's line for a bit and we didn't get points or it took a few sets to get points.
"If points come then that's a bonus, but we have to have the strong mindset of building pressure, completing our sets and expecting a tough, grinding game.
"Melbourne are the best defensive side in the [competition], so we will have to be even more patient and try and put our plays on, and if they don't come off then look to build pressure and try again next time."
The Cowboys were chiefly tamed through the ruck in both encounters, however their most effective method in winning field position was to transition the ball wide earlier in tackle counts, toward the halfway line – particularly in Round 21.
Morgan has made no bones about their desire to turn Saturday into a quick, attractive game, but know it is easier said than done.
In fact, such is the Storm's defensive dominance that only twice in 2016 have they let in four tries in a game (Round 16 v Tigers and Round 25 v Broncos).
"They control the ruck really well. Everyone talks about controlling the ruck in footy and they're a team that are very good at it," Morgan said.
"It's just about not letting them have too much control over the game.
"We want to play an up-tempo style of footy and not let them have control of it the whole time."
Game on. Data off.
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