Monday 20 November 2017 / 02:48 AM

Friday hangover: Cowboys v Roosters

North Queensland kicked off Round 3 with a 40-0 rout of fallen superpowers the Sydney Roosters, running in seven tries in a dominant display.  

North Queensland Cowboys 40 (Kane Linnett, Antonio Winterstein, Lachlan Coote, Scott Bolton, Michael Morgan, Jason Taumololo, Kyle Feldt tries; Jonathan Thurston 6 goals) defeated Sydney Roosters 0. Halftime: Cowboys 18-0. Crowd: 8,099.

Clinical Cowboys bounce back

North Queensland was disjointed, sloppy and outmuscled last week against Parramatta, but the premiers responded like champion teams generally do – with a near-faultless performance in the Townsville wet. The Cowboys scored seven tries and kept a clean defensive sheet, with Johnathan Thurston, who endured a rare off night against the Eels, pulling the strings with trademark mastery. Their forwards dominated the embattled Roosters’ pack and didn’t take their foot off the throttle until the final whistle.

NQ bigs rack up big numbers

The Roosters may have been without Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner, but the Cowboys forwards’ rampant performance sounded a warning to the rest of the competition. James Tamou (21 runs, 224 metres), Matt Scott (16 runs, 156 metres), Gavin Cooper (21 runs, 156 metres), Jason Taumololo (15 runs, 165 metres) and Ben Hannant (15 runs, 179 metres) all enjoyed big boosts to their averages, recovering from a subpar effort six days earlier in emphatic style.

Where to for the Roosters?

Minor premiers in each of the preceding three seasons, the Roosters’ campaign is slipping away. An 0-3 start isn’t the end of the world – as the Cowboys proved last year – but the manner in which they’ve capitulated has been deeply concerning. They can’t tread water until Pearce, JWH and Cordner return in a month or two’s time, because the finals ship will have sailed by that stage.

Tricolour wall crumbles

The Roosters have built one of the most vaunted defensive units of the modern era, conceding just over 1,000 points total in the last three regular season campaigns at 14 points per game. But they’ve already leaked 10 per cent of that tally in the first three matches of 2016 at over 33 per game. A new-look Tricolours line-up is clearly struggling to adjust to Trent Robinson’s ultra-successful defensive patterns, while their goal-line defence seems to have lost its starch.

Senior Roosters need to step up

The onus has to fall on the likes of Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Aidan Guerra, Mitch Aubusson and Shaun Kenny-Dowall to lead the Roosters out of this deep hole. Forward tyros Dylan Napa and Sio Siua Taukeiaho have been arguably their best so far, but young spine trio Jackson Hastings, Jayden Nikorima and Latrell Mitchell are struggling – and they desperately need more guidance and leadership from the side’s old heads.

Injuries compound Roosters’ woes

 A pectoral injury to centre recruit Dale Copley is set to test the Roosters’ backline depth to its limit, with Aubusson potentially in the frame to fill in out wide next week. But the hard-luck story of the night belonged to veteran utility Ian Henderson, who suffered a sickening broken leg in the dying moments of the match. Caution: footage of the incident is not for the squeamish.

Where are the fans?

The weather and the Thursday night timeslot – with many of the Cowboys’ fans travelling long distances to watch their heroes play – but the crowd figure of 8,099 was alarming. It was the club’s lowest home crowd since 2000, and just the 12th time in their history the venue has attracted under five figures for an NRL clash.

 

Continuity key as Cowboys look to GF rematch

The Cowboys have now fielded the same 17 for seven consecutive NRL matches – an extraordinary feat in the modern game, with injuries, suspension and form forcing changes in virtually every club’s line-up week to week. A head knock to Jake Granville may bring the streak to an end ahead of next Friday’s barnburner against the Broncos, but their remarkable continuity – underpinned by consistency – shapes as a trump card in the quest to go back-to-back.

[YouTube – Sports Tube]

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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