North Queensland coach Paul Green sounded a warning to the rest of the NRL saying Valentine Holmes is close to his best again after the Cowboys fullback starred in his side’s 36-6 demolition of the Gold Coast in Townsville.
Returning from his stint in America and his tilt at cracking the NFL, Holmes showed he has lost none of his attacking flair and vision, racking up three line break assists and three try assists.
The former representative star also showed he and Scott Drinkwater could form a potent combination for the Cowboys as they restarted their season in perfect fashion over the Titans.
Green said class from players such as Holmes is never too far below the surface no matter how long they have been away from the game.
“I thought his involvements were better again (from the first two rounds),” Green said.
Match Highlights: Cowboys v Titans
“If he can keep improving eventually we’ll see the old Val Holmes, it’s not far off.
“He’s a good player and his anticipation’s good so he just needs to tidy up some of those basic errors which he had earlier in the year when we first started playing. They weren’t there tonight and that’s what we expect from him.”
Drinkwater again showed what a talent he can be for the Cowboys while reserve hooker Reece Robson and halfback Jake Clifford also played pivotal roles.
“I thought Reece rolled our ruck well through the middle third of the field and then again coming up with two tries, it was a good performance for him,” Green said.
“I thought generally speaking his (Clifford) game was really good tonight, his kicking game and his kick selection was really good.
“I thought he took them on a bit himself which was good to see and we as a team can be a little bit better close to the line, but that’s to be expected first game back after a long spell.”
North Queensland benefited from the new six-again rule in the first 10 minutes as they dominated possession and laid the platform for their second win of the season.
“It puts a lot of pressure on those middle defenders, the good part about it is it just gets on with the game,” Green said of the six-again rule.
“A lot of those ruck penalties it’s like, a penalty gets blown and you think ‘what was that for’ and then everyone debates if it should have been a penalty or not.
Cowboys find space on the left again
“So, I like the fact the game keeps going and you don’t have time to feel sorry for yourself because it was a crap penalty, the game just flows, and I like that.
Jason Taumalolo spearheaded the Cowboys surge to full-time, racking up 290 metres, 126 post-contact metres, a line break and seven tackle breaks from 61 minutes.
“He did a fair bit of work defensively and the Titans talked about targeting him early, so I had the luxury of being able to give him a rest tonight coming off the back of a big lay-off,” Green said of Taumalolo’s 19 minutes on the bench.
“It was good to give him that freshen up and Josh McGuire punched out some good minutes so again there wasn’t that pressure on our middle rotation, and I thought our bench did a good job when they came on.”
The outlook is grim for Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook who said his side were simply outplayed.
“It’s pretty disappointing right now after the game, but the good thing is we get to play next week,” he said.
“We don’t have to wait another six or eight weeks hopefully.”
Despite often being the victims of the six-again rule, Holbrook said he liked the change and the impact it had on the contest.
“I think we’ve got to be open-minded to it, but as long as both teams are playing the same rules you’ve got get on with the game and we were clearly outplayed tonight,” he said.
Holbrook expected Jai Arrow to be right to play in round four despite coming from the field with six minutes remaining due to a head knock.