Cowboys v Storm: Five key points
Injuries hit the Cowboys who are now in danger of slipping out of the eight, while the Storm struggle to reach last week's heights.
Cowboys decimated by injury
The Cowboys have been hit by another spell of injuries, shortly after finding some stability within the side after losing their two captains earlier in the year. The Cowboys were reduced to only one player on the interchange, and a defensive backline that looked more like a forward pack with Coen Hess at centre and Kane Linnett moving out to the wing for the injured Antonio Winterstein. The lack of leadership also began to show, with some disorganisation seeping into their plays without captain Gavin Cooper directing the team up the field.
Storm win despite sloppy performance
They were far from the devastating team that dismantled Manly last week but the quality of the Melbourne Storm shone through in their defence, limiting the Cowboys to a single try out of numerous opportunities. It could be argued the win was as much a warning to other teams of their capabilities as their win over Manly was, showing that even at their worst they're still a formidable team. Their defence was outstanding, and only desperation from the Cowboys stopped the Storm from really blowing them off the park.
Cowboys at risk of slipping out of the eight
Two consecutive losses could have the Cowboys as low as seventh at the end of the round, but sixth is the likely outcome. North Queensland will face an equally desperate Penrith Panthers outfit next week, who will be playing for a position in the top eight. Follow that up with the Sharks in Townsville, Wests Tigers away and their final regular-season game against the Brisbane Broncos at home and it's a tough run home for the Cowboys.
Cowboys' gutsy performance
When they were reduced to one fit man on the bench after 26 minutes, the Cowboys had no right to be anywhere near the Storm let alone trailing by just two points. Despite the injuries the hosts continued to turn up for each other, only being found out on their carved up edge. North Queensland were let down by their execution and ball control, with several tries going close only to be let down by the last pass. It was an unfortunate outcome given the Cowboys had little trouble rolling down the field and into a good position to attack the Storm's line.
Storm flat from short turnaround
A short turnaround after the event of Cameron Smith's 350th game had Melbourne struggling in the Townsville humidity. It showed in their performance, with the Storm scoring four of their five tries against the Cowboys' tattered edge. This has given coach Craig Bellamy a headache in terms of getting a gauge of the performance heading into the Storm's match against the second placed Sydney Roosters next week. If the Roosters win on Sunday they'll be competing to go to equal points with the Storm when they meet in Melbourne in Round 23.