Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater says North Queensland has grown up as a football club in 2022 after they overcame a slow start to blow the Gold Coast away with an emphatic 32-6 victory.
With four of their teammates sitting in a corporate box at Robina with the rest of the Queensland State of Origin squad, the Cowboys were below their best but were good enough, for long enough to get back on their top-four bound horse.
The Gold Coast dominated the opening 15 minutes and led 6-0 but the Cowboys steadied and scored the next 32 points of the match with blistering three-try bursts at the end of each half to claim their ninth win of the year.
It was not always pretty from the visitors but they showed poise in attack and discipline and desperation in defence with a below-strength side to get the job done.
Drinkwater — who was behind Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow for the no.1 jumper at the start of the year — was at the heart of everything the Cowboys did with three try assists, 223 running metres, four tackles breaks and 161 kicking metres.
“We are a couple of years older and wiser now. We have that extra experience and mental toughness and we are turning up for each other on the field and showing that the Cowboys jersey means something,’’ Drinkwater said.
“We don’t get flustered or disappointed if we don’t score straight away. We are showing patience and maturity because we are getting into the grind and we are happy to score tries late.
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“It was always going to be an extra challenge missing those Origin players tonight but the guys that came in did an awesome job. They knew their role and put the Cowboys jersey on and played the way we want to play which is keep competing.
“It is something that takes no skill. It’s all about having the right attitude and everyone brought that tonight.’’
Drinkwater said it was important for him personally and for the Cowboys as a collective to bounce back from the 22-0 loss to Penrith last Friday night which snapped a six-game winning streak for North Queensland.
“Missing a few Origin players, I wanted to step up and get my hands on the footy more and just be in the game. Last week against Penrith I wasn’t able to do that and I was disappointed with that,’’ he said.
“The only way to turn that around is to get out there and have a crack. That loss was our first in seven weeks so it was massive for us to not get back-to-back losses and drop confidence.
“Our completion rates were too low against the Panthers and tonight they weren’t great in parts but when we got it right, we scored. It was a no-brainer.’’
Tabuai-Fidow gets his second
While the Cowboys are riding high with a 9-4 record heading into Friday night’s home game against the Dragons, the Titans slumped to a 3-10 record with the Rabbitohs heading to the Gold Coast next Saturday.
After conceding five tries in 21 minutes in the second half against the Broncos last week, letting in three tries in eight minutes on two separate occasions was the story of the night for the downcast Titans.
Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook said the mental lapses were “killing us” and his side needed to “compete harder” but refused to give up on 2022.
“We are trying so hard to get to 6-0, trying so hard, and then we go bang, bang and its 16-6…we know we are miles off but we keep working at it and string some wins together,’’ he said.
“We are not giving up…we are hesitating with everything. There’s just big moments we aren’t winning and we are on the end of a big score.’’
He said scans would reveal the extent of the damage to fullback Jayden Campbell who left the field midway through the second half with a hamstring injury.