Cowboys’ season threatens to fall apart after fifth straight loss
THE Cowboys will have to rewrite NRL history to make this year's grand final after their insipid start to the season went from bad to worse with a 27-10 loss to Canterbury at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday night.
An ill-disciplined Cowboys outfit looked slow, frustrated and devoid of answers as they registered their fifth straight loss for the first time since round 13, 2013.
No team has made the decider after a 1-5 start and Canterbury, which entered the match with the same record after a shocking loss in Canberra last week, dominated from the outset.
North Queensland was touted as premiership favourites before the season kicked off, after making last year's grand final without co-captains Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston.
But they have looked a shadow of their former selves in 2018. Their attack is predictable, their middle third is getting beaten every week and the combination of star halves Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan looks all at sea.
It is the first time they have lost five games on the trot under coach Paul Green, who has stuck solid with his first-choice 17 for the first six rounds. But surely changes must now be made to energise the side.
The crowd of 14,343 was quieter than a morgue as the Cowboys' campaign descended into crisis mode.
The slump has come at the worst possible time for the off-contract Green, who is yet to commit to the Cowboys beyond this year.
The Bulldogs' middle third of Adam Elliott, David Klemmer, Danny Fualalo, and Aaron Woods were superb and laid the platform for their best win of the year.
Jason Taumalolo, Antonio Winterstein and Corey Jensen were the standouts for the Cowboys, but the side had far too many passengers.
Due to errors and a glut of penalties, the Cowboys had to make 61 more tackles in the first 25 minutes and the Bulldogs capitalised to build a 12-0 lead through a Marcelo Montoya try and three Moses Mbye penalty goals.
The Cowboys finally entered their attacking 20 for the first time in the match at the 28-minute mark, but a terrible kick from Morgan sailed over the in-goal line on the full.
Seven minutes before the break, Bulldogs forward Asipeli Fine was sent to the sin bin for repeat infringements by Canterbury on their own goal-line.
North Queensland squandered a chance to get back into the game when Jason Taumalolo bounced the ball over the after muscling his way through three defenders.
The Cowboys were made to pay when Raymond Faitala-Mariner ran on to a superb short ball close to the line the next set to extend the Bulldogs' lead to 18-0.
A field goal to Kieran Foran handed Canterbury a commanding 19-0 lead at the break.
When Elliott capped a fine game with a try early in the second half, the result was put to bed at 25-0.
A Kyle Feldt try midway through the second half and another to Ben Hampton right on full-time will be little consolation for a Cowboys side in desperate need of answers.
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 27 (Marcelo Montoya, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Adam Elliott tries; Moses Mbye 7 goals; Kieran Foran field goal)
NORTH QLD COWBOYS 10 (Kyle Feldt, Ben Hampton tries; Johnathan Thurston goal)
at 1300SMILES Stadium