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Cowboys coach Todd Payten wants his players to break the shackles and go after the win following their 25-18 loss to the Dragons in Townsville on Saturday night.

Although it was a far better performance than the 24-0 hiding they received from the Panthers in round one, Payten is scratching his head as to why his players can't capitalise on strong starts.

"We were rolling down the field pretty well, were putting enough pressure on their middle. But we just lacked that punch. We weren’t clean and I don’t think we were all on the same page," Payten said.

"For the most part, I think we’re a little scared to go after it at the moment.

"Every time we gained some momentum, we made a pretty basic error, we’d drop our heads, and we haven’t got the resilience to fight our way out at the moment," he said.

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"The basic errors, when we have the run of play, is really detrimental to our head-space and winning games.

"I’m unsure whether we’re a little confused, a little scared to go after the game, or too fatigued.

"In saying that I still thought we had plenty of ball at the end to win the game."

It was a four-tries-to-three loss - the difference was the better finishing and organisational skills of Dragons halves Ben Hunt and Corey Norman.

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The Cowboys are without one of their biggest movers and shakers in lock Jason Taumalolo (broken hand) but didn't really miss him too much as Reuben Cotter came off the bench into the starting side.

"I thought he had a solid game. I think he’s a great competitor. I know what I’m going to get out of him with all that effort," Payten said.

But he's not given an absolute guarantee Cotter will be wearing the No.13 jersey every week.

"I’m not sure ... again I’ll look at the video, but first thought I can’t see why not," Payten said.

"Then again Josh McGuire had some moments too. He added a heap of energy and took the ball up well, so there’s a bit to think about."

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