Cowboys coach Todd Payten believes his team showed too much respect to the Sydney Roosters as a timid opening cost North Queensland a shot at a big-name scalp in the 30-16 loss at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
Payten lamented his side conceding four tries in the opening 25 minutes of the Magic Round clash and despite clawing their way back to trail 18-16 shortly after half-time his Cowboys were eventually silenced in the six tries to three defeat.
The Cowboys were very much still in the contest at 22-16 down when Lachlan Burr was sin binned for a high tackle on Roosters fullback James Tedesco in the 63rd minute even though the star No.1 was clearly slipping before contact.
The Roosters were able to close out the game with the one-man advantage and although Payten didn’t believe Burr deserved to be so harshly penalised for an “accident”, he also felt the loss was on their shoulders not the match officials.
“I was just disappointed. In the end that is not why we lost the game. We lost the game because we let in six tries,” Payten said.
Match Highlights: Roosters v Cowboys
“We started the game poor and just gave them too much respect I thought in the first 20 to 25 minutes. We showed a bit of character and fought our way back into the game.
“We showed plenty of ticker, we just didn’t play very smart at times and we leaked tries. That is disappointing thing for me. I can’t fault our effort.
“It’s debatable whether we have taken step back (tonight) but there was a period in the game where I thought this is going to get real ugly and we managed to stay in the fight.”
Payten said he felt for the players, fans and match officials who’d been forced to adapt to the NRL’s head contact crackdown on the game’s biggest weekend.
“Teddy was almost on his knees, it was an accident. It wasn’t a decision by Lachlan to hit him in the face or in the head,” Payten said.
“The thing I’ve loved about our game however long I’ve played it is the physicality and we’re just going away from that a little bit and that is what worries me.
“I kind of feel sorry for the players because as a game we’ve tried to speed the game up and now we’re penalising players with the fast game and under fatigue and they find themselves in vulnerable positions and getting sent for that is disappointing.
“I feel sorry for the referees because they’re the ones under pressure having to make those calls.
“I really feel sorry for our supporters across the game. This is probably our biggest weekend on the calendar throughout the season and everyone is spending their hard-earned money to turn up and we’ve taken away from the game of rugby league in the end.”
Robson the creator for Drinkwater
Payten was full of praise for his chief playmaker Scott Drinkwater (two tries) and fullback Valentine Holmes (one try assist and 191m) for their performance as the club continues to build their way back after the horrendous 0-4 start to 2021.
The short turnaround before the Cowboys' next clash Newcastle in Townsville on Thursday means prop Coen Hess won't be available.
“He failed his HIA and from what I understand he won’t be able to play as we play on Thursday night and that’s going to hurt us,” Payten said.
“He has been going really well. I thought he adapted really well to the middle. I’ve said it before his leg speed and athleticism adds another dimension for us, he breaks tackles and is a handful.”