Cowboys coach Paul Green has lamented a lack of energy in big moments as his side was steamrolled by the Broncos on Friday night.
North Queensland struggled to match their Queensland rivals from start to finish after Kyle Feldt's kick off went out on the full to open the contest.
Green said his players needed to find motivation throughout the 80 minutes, rather than when they were behind on the scoreboard.
"Our starts to both halves were not good enough," he said post-match.
"Kicked out on the full the first half and I think they scored in the second set in the second half."
Green took no pleasure in seeing his side score two late tries to bridge the scoreline back to 28-21.
"Not really because we need to start like that and not let the scoreboard affect our effort," he said.
Holmes scores his first try back in the NRL
"I go back to our starts and we needed more energy with the starts. We have to get out of that habit."
The premiership-winning coach also questioned the NRL Bunker's decision to uphold a refereeing decision that was challenged by Cowboys skipper Michael Morgan.
The ball appeared to come loose from the halfback's grasp and was ruled a knock-on, but was immediately challenged by Morgan.
"In my opinion, I didn't think it was the right call that they come up with," Green said.
Morgan coolly slots a 40m field goal
"I didn't think he dropped it and, if he did, there's no doubt a Broncos hand was in there and there was more than one in the tackle.
"That wasn't our issue tonight. Tackling was our biggest issue."
As discussions about the game being called off circled on the morning of the match, Green admitted it was an unwanted distraction.
"There's no doubt it is a distraction throughout the day, hearing different things, but we're professional. We have to deal with that and turn up to play," he said.
He added that his team would simply deal with whatever was put in front of them when it comes to alternative arrangements in the rounds ahead.
"I think it's foreign ground for all of us. I don't think any of us know what to expect. We've just got to get our heads around it," Green said.
The return of Valentine Holmes, who scored the Cowboys' first try of the night, was only a taste of what is to come, the coach suggested.
"I thought he was good. He can be better, there's no doubt about that," Green said.
"I said pre-game if we expect him to hit the ground and be the best player in the comp straight up you're probably putting too high expectations on him.
"The brilliance will come, we know he's capable of that."