Cowboys coach Paul Green says his side have restored some pride.
North Queensland ended their three-game NRL losing streak on Monday, finally finding some flow in offence to down Newcastle 28-2 in Townsville.
And the Cowboys eased some of the pressure on rookie coach Green with easily their best performance of the season, laying down five tries to none for their second win of 2014.
“We talk about playing for 80 minutes and not letting the scoreboard influence how we play,” Green said.
“I thought that was a key thing for us tonight, we had pride in our line and it didn’t matter if it was the first minute or the last minute – we didn’t let them score.” Gone were the mistakes that plagued the Cowboys in previous weeks as North Queensland completed 78 per cent of their sets and made 11 errors, compared to 59 per cent and 21 last week against the Titans.
Defeat would have left the Cowboys staring at their worst start to an NRL season for five years but, while Newcastle scored first in the sixth minute through a Tyrone Roberts penalty, that was to be the Knights’ only points of the game.
Green lauded the way his side played, controlling the football and raising the completion rate after last week’s loss against the Gold Coast Titans.
“Often with teams, if you focus on one thing you forget others. But tonight we were good on both sides of the footy,” he said.
Green had made two changes to his squad and one of those, debutant winger Matthew Wright, repaid that faith by scoring the first try on 19 minutes.
Halfback Robert Lui and fullback Michael Morgan were into everything offensively for the Cowboys, playing a role in all of the home team’s tries.
“I was pleased and he (Lui) certainly made some improvements but he needed to,” Green said.
“I thought Ray Thompson was good out of dummy half and I thought Michael Morgan was really good at the back too, so it was good to see.
“Everyone was doing their job.” Wright’s crossing was the first of three in nine minutes, all down the right edge, and came during a period of extended possession by the Cowboys.
The halfback was played into a gap by Johnathan Thurston and laid off to supporting runner Morgan, who had the ball bounce off his thigh and into the arms of unmarked centre Brent Tate in the 22nd minute.
Morgan himself had a try on 28 minutes, as Lui laid off to Thurston, who put the fullback into a big gap as Joey Leilua came across to cover and Morgan spun his way around his defender to put the ball down.
The Cowboys put on more pressure after half-time, Jason Taumalolo narrowly missing out on a leaping try-of-the-year contender in the 65th minute. He injured the AC joint in his right shoulder in the process and played no further role in the game.
Morgan did put the Cowboys over just 25 seconds later, running onto his own grubber and, despite slipping, getting a hand down on the ball to extend the home side’s lead.
Hooker Ray Thompson further extended the rout on 72 minutes, running into a big gap to get the ball down.
The only other sour note of the night for the Cowboys was a judiciary date for Tariq Sims, who was put on report for a shoulder charge on Roberts in the 78th minute.
Newcastle captain Kurt Gidley said the emotion of learning teammate Alex McKinnon might never walk again played no role in their lacklustre performance.
“It just felt like it was back to footy and obviously still having Alex in our minds,” he said. “I felt a lot better going into the game this week than last so it’s no excuse.”