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No matter what the sport, the old adage rings true: attack might win you fans but defence wins you trophies.

And that timeless truth is what drove North Queensland during the pre-season when they worked tirelessly on their busted defensive systems and mindset.

At the halfway mark of 2022, the Cowboys have the second-best defence in the NRL, conceding just 159 points in 13 games.

They have let in just 42 points in the second halves of games this year.

Their rock-solid defence was on show again on Thursday night, when they conceded first points to the Titans after a mountain of possession in the 15th minute, but shut up shop after that to emerge with a 32-6 victory.

Match Highlights: Titans v Cowboys


Coach Todd Payten said it was simply "hard work and repetition" over the summer, fixing their defence and getting fit enough to fight for 80 minutes, that has them well in contention for the 2022 Premiership.

“Our defensive systems are working well. Everyone understands it and believes in it,’’ he said.

“That’s something we drove this off-season and the players have bought into it.’’

Defending kicks, ensuring tackles stick first time, every time and “competing hard” were part of the new and improved defensive mantra in Townsville.

A try goes begging for the Titans


If the Cowboys aren’t stifling opposition sides with their organised defensive line, they are scrambling like their lives depend on it if a break is made.

Co-captain Chad Townsend said there was “buy-in” and “hunger” from the Cowboys with their defence that will serve them well at the business end of the season.

“If you look at the top four teams, consistently they are the best defensive teams. So, for us, defence was a huge focus for us in the off-season,’’ Townsend said.

“We’ve done a lot of tackling. It probably wasn’t my favourite thing to do but we are reaping a lot of the rewards now.

“You see how many tries we’ve saved this year... that’s something that we’ve been priding ourselves on.’’

Cowboys co-captain Chad Townsend

“We compete and we work hard for one another. It’s a trait of good teams that they turn up and compete."

With 159 points conceded through 13 games, the Cowboys are on track for their best defensive season in the Premiership era with an average of just above 12 points against per season.

Their previous best (14.71 points against per game) came back in 2016 when they went into the year with the title of reigning premiers — a tagline that Payten's men will certainly be hoping follows their defensive feats in 2022.

YEAR GAMES PTS. AGAINST AVERAGE POSITION
2022* 13 games 159 points 12.23 points 3rd*
2016 24 games 355 points 14.79 points 4th, Prelim Final
2014 24 games 406 points 16.92 points 5th, Semi Final
2013 24 games 431 points 17.96 points 8th, Qualifying Final
2017 24 games 443 points 18.46 points 8th, Grand Final
2012 24 games 445 points 18.54 points 5th, Semi Final
2017 24 games 454 points 18.91 points 3rd, Premiers
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