The North Queensland Cowboys have given their confidence a boost and earned themselves a solid performance to build upon heading into their next game against 2016 Premiers the Cronulla Sharks, and the looming State of Origin period.
In beating the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Thursday, the Cowboys didn't seem to miss injured playmaker Johnathan Thurston's influence at all. Michael Morgan produced his most complete game of the season to silence critics who have been questioning whether his form has warranted a Queensland jersey.
His free-flowing performance was facilitated by the return of fullback Lachaln Coote and hooker Jake Granville, who both provided attacking options, defensive organisation and impact; as well as a strong kicking game from Coote.
The most impressive aspect of North Queensland's performance was their consistency over 80 minutes, and after admitting to falling in and out of games over their period of poor form, the Cowboys never gave the Bulldogs an inch of space to work with on Thursday night.
"Yeah that was… a really pleasing performance from us last night. Some of the tougher areas of the game we hadn't sort of been hanging in there… we defended our errors, we defended our try-line a lot better and got back into the game," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
"We should get plenty of confidence out of it, you want to keep improving each week, regardless of whether Origin is here or not it just gives the boys confidence."
While the performance was perhaps the Cowboys' most complete since their Round 2 victory over the Brisbane Broncos, Green is keen to get back into training and continue to improve.
"There's things we can do better, it's been probably one of our better performances for a while, but as I said there's areas that we can still get better at and we'll need to against the Sharks they're a good side."
Captain Gavin Cooper was equally pleased with the performance but doesn't want the team to fall into the trap of resting on their laurels as they prepare to take on the 2016 Premiers.
"We made a few improvements in some key areas, especially in defence. To hold them to nil in the first half was a pretty big effort," Cooper said.
The Cowboys take on the Sharks on Thursday night at Southern Cross Group Stadium.