Tough times ahead
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