Tough times ahead

Townsville Bulletin - - Sport - by Michael Thompson michael. thompson@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

WHAT a dif­fer­ence a week makes.

It has taken just seven days for the glim­mer of hope the Cow­boys sent their long­suf­fer­ing fans via last week­end’s slim two-point win over the Bron­cos to be ex­tin­guished.

For 14,061 home fans, Satur­day night’s 34-22 ca­pit­u­la­tion to the Knights was yet an­other kick in the guts from a team that has promised so much and de­liv­ered so lit­tle.

And there could be more mis­ery on the hori­zon. Next week­end it’s go­ing to be the Mel­bourne Storm’s turn to rat­tle the home team’s cage.

Fresh from de­liv­er­ing a 40-12 hid­ing to the Gold Coast Ti­tans, last sea­son’s NRL pari­ahs are on the crest of an early wave and they don’t look like they are about to fall off.

That’s not good news for a team des­per­ate for a home win.

Asked for his opin­ion af­ter Satur­day night’s game, Cow­boys coach Neil Henry said: ‘ ‘ P r e t t y s h a t t e r e d , o n e week’s a long time in footy isn’t it?’’

Too right it is. But seven days is also long enough to dis­sect an or­di­nary per­for­mance and start look­ing for a few an­swers.

For starters, Jar­rod Mullen gave Johnathan Thurston plenty to think about. At times he made the man re­puted to be the world’s best half­back look pretty or­di­nary and there must be concern in the lo­cal camp that the Storm’s Cooper Cronk will be do­ing all he can to ce­ment his claims to the green and gold jer­sey when the two meet-up.

James Tamou needs to be told that lung­ing at a pass­ing jer­sey does not con­sti­tiute a tackle at the game’s high­est level and Michael Bani needs to go back to ba­sics as does Ray Thompson.

On Satur­day night, the gloom of the home fans could not be mis­taken as the game was put away 17 min­utes from time when Knights winger J a mes Mc­Manus crossed in the Cow­boys cor­ner to post a 34-6 lead for his team­mates.

Only when the chips were well and truly down did the Cow­boys be­gin to click, giv­ing the Knights a bit to think about as Ash­ley Graham cel­e­brated his 100th game with two tries while Lee­son Ah Mau backed him up with an­other four-pointer.

Coach Henry was down­cast in the min­utes fol­low­ing the game, re­flect­ing on the sharp drop in eu­pho­ria from their sea­son opener at Sun­corp Sta­dium to the cold re­al­ity of a home de­feat.

‘‘ We need to get back on the horse I sup­pose and get out there . . . but it’s a pretty bit­ter pill,’’ he said.

‘‘ We showed glimpses of what we could do but ef­fec­tively the game was gone.’’

The Cow­boys also suf­fered some in­jury scares dur­ing the first-up home loss, but apart from a few bumps and scratches Henry said his men had copped ‘‘ bruised egos’’ more than any­thing.

Co-cap­tain Thurston told gath­ered me­dia the re­sult will see the Cow­boys head back to the draw­ing board.

‘‘ We need to be bet­ter at train­ing and trans­fer that on to the pad­dock,’’ he said.

‘‘ We’ve got a long turn around now, a week’s a long time in footy.’’

It’s a rare feat for Thurston to be out­classed in the kick­ing stakes but that’s ex­actly what took place when Mullen came up with a cou­ple of cru­cial 40-20 kicks to steer t h e m o m e n t u m f i r m l y New­cas­tle’s way

‘‘ We needed to put more pres­sure on him but when he nailed those kicks – they were good kicks,’’ Henry said.

Thurston couldn’t have agreed more with his coach.

‘‘ He’s ( Mullen) a very good player and we’ve seen that t o n i g h t . We d i d n ’ t p u t enough pres­sure on him and he made us pay for it,’’ he said.

Missed one-on-one tack­les, lack of good pos­ses­sion and un­forced er­rors com­bined with the ef­fects of Mullen’s stand-out kick­ing en­sured the Cow­boy’s down­fall.

ON A ROLL: Cameron Smith on the side­lines dur­ing the Storm’s de­mo­li­tion of the Ti­tans

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