The North Queensland Cowboys had to work hard to eventually break down a stubborn Gold Coast Titans side, but their weight of possession and field position finally took its toll on the Titans.
Cowboys struggle to execute
Despite more than 20 tackles in their opposition's 20 in the first 20 minutes, the Cowboys couldn't score a point, with last passes and kicks going astray. While it didn't cost them in the long run, an inability to score points will eventually come back to get you. The best teams in the NRL seize their opportunities when they appear, and the Titans did that better than the Cowboys tonight, their only try coming from mid-field and through some lazy Cowboys defenders. The Cowboys improved in the second half, scoring two tries, but should have dominated the Titans more convincingly given their huge weight of possession, 62 per cent, over the 80 minutes.
North Queensland coach Paul Green praised the efforts of stand-in halfback Michael Morgan, who was in everything for the home side in the absence of injured playmaker Johnathan Thurston.
"Morgs, in particular, controlled the game really well at half. I thought his kicking game was quite good," Green said.
"It's not easy (backing up from Origin) but I thought tonight he was outstanding and I'm really proud of his effort."
Titans just needed more ball
They may have lacked in execution, ball control and discipline in their own end, but the Titans certainly know how to defend. The Cowboys carried 58 per cent of possession into the halftime break, but the Titans led 8-6. The Gold Coast play enterprising football and attack opportunities when they see them. Right and left side raids looked promising throughout the night, and their only try came when they exploited lazy Cowboys defence. They aren't far off putting together a complete performance, and if they can dominate the battle of the forwards they'll begin to score a lot of points of the back of halfback Ashley Taylor directing the likes of Jarryd Hayne around the field.
"I thought we handled the Cowboys well for large parts of the game but on the flip side we didn't really get our attack going at any stage," Titans coach Neil Henry said.
"Field possession wise we just weren't getting the metres they were."
"Jason Taumalolo on for Coen Hess"
It's announced in the stadium and on the TV in almost every game the Cowboys play, and it's proving to be a devastating combination. Taumalolo is one of, if not the most, powerful forwards in the competition, and Hess has well and truly arrived on the scene, with his name being thrown around for Queensland. Between them Hess and Taumalolo made 365 metres, scored a try, broke the line twice and shrugged off seven tackles. The result was the Cowboys' second half stampede over the Titans, who lacked the energy to come close to the Cowboys' level.
Titans struggle to get out of their own half
It's impossible to win games stuck in your own end, and while the Titans' woes were not entirely self-inflicted, with the Cowboys forcing several repeat sets, errors and cheap penalties constituted the bulk of what kept the Titans from coming close to the North Queensland try line. Despite the Titans hanging on in the first half to lead at the break, it seemed inevitable that the Cowboys would finish over the top of them, and by the time Jason Taumalolo returned to the field the Titans looked too tired to tackle.
"You can't beat teams when you're expected to do that amount of defensive work," Titans coach Neil Henry said.
"Our middle players had to do a tremendous amount of work in that first half and that takes energy out of us.
"We didn't get any flow in the game, we didn't get down the field or force any repeat sets and the Cowboys did their job well."
Hess pushes Origin claim
The Hess express continues to steam towards a State of Origin berth for Queensland, with another try and 140 run metres. Hess started on the bench but played in the middle against the Titans, and while noting that the work-load was more intense, he seemed to fare just as well. Despite stating that he doesn't think he is ready for Origin, and that a premature start in the gruelling arena could hurt his development more than it will help, Hess may still be picked for Game Two in Sydney, and his form would certainty warrant selection.