North Queensland coach Todd Payten took some positives from his side's loss to the Roosters but conceded their finals chances were slipping away ahead of a clash with Melbourne next week.
The performance of Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow at fullback was among the highlights for Payten's men in a 34-18 defeat to the Roosters on Saturday afternoon.
The Cowboys' fifth loss on the trot was compounded by a suspected season-ending ACL injury to centre Javid Bowen.
Cowboys halves Scott Drinkwater and Tom Dearden had their chances to break an 18-18 deadlock but were upstaged by 19-year-old Roosters playmaker Sam Walker in the final 15 minutes of the match.
Drinkwater thought he scored a try to get the side back on level terms but was ruled to have made a second attempt in grounding the ball before Dearden placed a poor kick in the next set that led to the Roosters sealing the win.
Along with a Jason Taumalolo pass that was intercepted late, they were three bittersweet moments for the Cowboys to digest in a scoreline that didn't reflect the closeness of the contest.
Match Highlights: Cowboys v Roosters
"We didn't come up with the right plays but I can't fault the other team's composure," Payten said.
"We had a couple of chances there. That's the difference. We let them out of their end too easily on several occasions.
"I thought they played really patient, even though they were down by a couple of tries. It paid dividends."
Despite the finish, Payten believed Dearden's performance was his best since arriving at the Cowboys in June.
The Cowboys draw level after Tabuai-Fidow breaks away
"That was his best game to date and it was on the back of his running game," Payten said.
"When he can identify the ruck, he can take the line on. The challenge for us and the team is game awareness and patience.
"We love to score points every set and it's a big-play mentality which has been a challenge for us the whole season.
"It's the decision-making under fatigue and pressure."
Payten said the club will monitor Tabuai-Fidow after his strong efforts backing up from his Origin debut.
After making his Maroons debut on Wednesday night, the 19-year-old racked up 261 metres from 20 runs, including two line breaks and six tackle busts after replacing injured teammate Valentine Holmes at fullback.
"I thought he was really strong for us, a big week for him to back up from an Origin," Payten said.
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"It's always a challenge [to monitor post-Origin]. It's emotionally draining, not just physically. With all the hype around him and the game it's going to be a challenge for him.
"I thought he was flat yesterday but got through. My message was simple today, we wanted him around the ball."