Cowboys v Rabbitohs: Five key points
Two of the Cowboys' best return, Rabbitohs' attack struggles and North Queensland's backline clicks into gear. The key talking points to come from the Cowboys' comfortable win over the Rabbitohs at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Taumalolo and Coote make successful returns
After missing two weeks due to suspension and injury respectively, the Cowboys duo made smooth returns to the team. Jason Taumalolo ran for 214 metres, his lowest in the season, which says it all about his current form. Lachlan Coote was in everything, kicking a 40/20 off the first set and setting up Gideon Gela-Mosby's try with an inch-perfect tap-on.
Coach Paul Green spoke about Coote post-match praising his toughness to stay in the game after an injury scare early in the first half.
"He had some nice touches… it was good to have him back," Green said.
Most of the praise for Taumalolo came from his opposite number, with Sam Burgess acknowledging how damaging the New-Zealand representative is.
"He's been in great form… he's tough to handle and has great footwork. I really enjoyed the battle, he's one of the world's best players so you always like playing against them," Burgess said.
Rabbitohs struggle in attack
One try, two weeks in a row. The Rabbitohs will be frantically searching for an answer to their attacking issues. Their offense was one-dimensional, pushing the same plays down both sides of the field that rarely looked like getting past the Cowboys' edge defence, and their kicks came to very little throughout the night.
Coach Michael Maguire is adamant that his young group of players will learn from every game, and they'll do it quickly.
"There were periods throughout that first half where we were very strong, but there were moments in the game that just kept letting them off and they're the critical moments in the game," Maguire said.
Cowboys still not playing at their best
While they were undoubtedly the better team tonight, the Cowboys will be disappointed with several aspects of their game. While they only gave away three penalties, they committed 14 errors, leaving their completion rate at 75 per cent, well below the base-line 80 most teams aim for.
Disciple remains an issue – especially on last tackles – according to co-captain Johnathan Thurston.
"We keep putting ourselves under the pump, fifth- tackle options I think we had three, maybe four 20-metre restarts there, which just puts the pressure back on us," Thurston said.
Despite their poor handling skills, the Cowboys will walk away with a lot more confidence in their defence after leaking 56 points in the last two games.
Young Rabbitohs need time to learn
Although they dropped off late in the second half, the Rabbitohs had several positive plays in the first stanza, with two disallowed tries and several repeat sets. Maguire is confident that his young players will hit their stride soon, which is encouraging news for Souths fans.
"There's a lot of effort, a lot of good things going on in our team, we've just got to continue to work hard, producing that for longer periods of time," Maguire said.
The Rabbitohs certainly aren't lacking in skill, speed or size, with players like Reynolds, Jennings and the Burgess brothers making for a formidable squad on paper, but when the boots hit the grass the Rabbitohs were unable to execute against the Cowboys.
"It might be a seven-tackle set, or a scrum play error and those sorts of different things that allow quality teams like that to come and get you… The teams that are probably more up the pointy end of the competition at the moment… are making sure they're executing their plays," he said.
Cowboys' new backs begin to gel
The recent influx of new players in the last few weeks has seen the Cowboys fall back to a simplified attacking structure, and struggle defensively, particularly on the edges. Despite this the Cowboys held out under pressure as the Rabbitohs threw attacking plays at their edges all night.
The young players like Gideon Gela-Mosby and Javid Bowen kept their cool and defended well, which Green puts down to experience.
"It's a combination of a couple of things, just practice defending next to different guys. There's a real knack to defending on an edge when you've got a lot of guys coming at you, so we're getting better this week with those new combinations," Green said.