North Queensland coach Paul Green will demand his players restore pride in the jersey and show some respect for departing veteran Matt Scott in their final three games after a 42-6 surrender to Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
The Cowboys, who bowed out of the finals race when they lost 18-14 at home to Brisbane last week, trailed the Knights 18-6 midway through the second half but leaked another four converted tries in 15 minutes in a capitulation Green described as unacceptable.
It was North Queensland’s fifth straight loss, the eighth from their past nine games, and equalled their biggest-ever loss to the Knights – a 60-24 defeat in Townsville in 2003.
“Every club’s got those ‘if-only’ games, but we’ve had some really, really narrow losses, so from that point of view, despite how the year’s panned out, we’ve still been in the hunt,” Green said.
“But today was really, really disappointing – particularly that last 20 minutes. It’s hard to defend that.
Match: Knights v Cowboys
Round 22 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
“It’s important we finish the season on a positive note, and I think it’s more about how we play. We don’t want to see the way that game ended today. That’s not who we are or who we want to be.
“It was today, so it was disappointing, but by the same token, unacceptable.
“You can take mistakes or errors, and that’s going to happen at different times, but when there seems to be a lack of effort at different times, that’s probably hard to accept.”
Clifford breaks the line on the left
The Cowboys have back-to-back home games against the Panthers and Bulldogs in the next two weeks, then finish their campaign against the Storm in Melbourne.
They will be the last three games for several long-serving Cowboys, most notably Scott, the retiring former Queensland and Australian pack leader.
Green said the Cowboys owed it to those players to be better than they were against Newcastle.
“You don’t want that to be what happens every week, and so far it hasn’t been,” Green said.
“We’ve put ourselves in the contest, despite not having anywhere near our best team out there each week, but today, that last 20 minutes in particular, was unacceptable.
“I would like to think there’s a bit more pride in the jersey and also respect for some blokes who will probably finish up this year, so I would like to see the respect for what they’ve done for the club over the years.
“If we get that, we’ll probably be in the contest most times, but that wasn’t the case today. That was unacceptable.”
Ponga crosses for his second try
Green believed the game turned when Kalyn Ponga scored his second try just before half-time to give the Knights an 18-6 lead at the break, then Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt could not capitalise on a scoring chance early in the second half.
“That try just before half-time was disappointing, but I felt if we had have got out of the blocks well in the second half and got some points early, it would have tightened the contest up and put us back in it,” he said.
“But we sort of blew that chance with ‘Feldty’. Had he picked that up and we got points there, that would have got us a bit of confidence and back into the game.”