Cowboys v Warriors: Five key points
The Cowboys gradually ground down a stubborn Warriors side, with both teams missing their respective star halfbacks for the Round 20 Telstra Premiership clash. Here are five talking points from the match at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Battle of the forwards
The game was an absolute slug-fest, with the Cowboys' game plan focussing on matching the Warriors' strength through the middle, which they did admirably, while the Warriors tried to out-muscle the Cowboys. It was the home side that proved to be the tougher of the two. Jason Taumalolo made 189 metres, with Coen Hess coming off the bench for 134. The North Queensland second rowers had their time in the sun as-well, with Gavin Cooper making 93 metres and 38 tackles, while Ethan Lowe made 32 tackles and scored a try.
Cowboys lament late lapse
A try on the stroke of half-time has been deemed unacceptable by Cowboys coach Paul Green, with the points costing the Cowboys a half-time lead. It didn't cost them the game against the Warriors in the end, as their efforts in defence shone through in the second half keeping the visitors scoreless, but it could cost them against any of the top four sides they'll face in the coming weeks. Against the likes of the Melbourne Storm, Cronulla Sharks and Sydney Roosters every point counts, and failing to complete the restart set after a try of their own, followed by poor goal-line defence won't get the Cowboys into the top four.
Warriors struggle without Shaun Johnson
Despite a strong performance from Kieran Foran, and an admirable effort from Mason Lino, the Warriors were one-dimensional in attack against the Cowboys' defence. They'll need to work on some combinations and do it quickly if they're to keep their dwindling finals hopes alive. Foran showed he is more than up to the task, with the five-eighth stealing several repeat sets from the Cowboys. The Warriors' execution was what let them down, as they converted only one of those repeat sets into a try, with their second four-pointer coming off the back of a Cowboys error.
Home side hangs in there for 80 minutes
They could be accused of dropping off against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the second half last week, but they had no such problem against the Warriors. The game certainly fell into an end-to-end arm-wrestle, but the Cowboys continuously turned up in defence. A special mention needs to go to Gavin Cooper, who showed his leadership with two try-saving tackles out of his 38 total. They'll need to do it all again and then some when they come up against the Roosters next week, who will be much more potent in attack than the Warriors without Shaun Johnson.
Cowboys make it four in a row
Four on the trot with a bye in between has netted the Cowboys 10 competition points in the last five weeks, and they need every win they can get as they come into a tough stretch ahead of the NRL Telstra Premiership finals. They face the Roosters in Sydney, before playing the Storm in Townsville, the Panthers in Penrith and the Sharks in Townsville. Three teams in or vying for top four positions and a Panthers side that's desperate to play football in September. If they can make their four straight wins eight they'll be premiership favourites, but three from four could see them at risk of losing their tied footing with the top four, depending on other results.