Cowboys stumble again as Warriors stay perfect
FROM premiership favourites to dwelling near the bottom of the NRL ladder - that is how quickly the Cowboys' fortunes have changed in the space of just five weeks.
North Queensland's shocking start to the season only worsened after the undefeated Warriors handed them their fourth straight loss.
In front of a sold out Mt Smart Stadium, the Warriors claimed a 22-12 victory, rubbing salt into the wounds of the struggling North Queensland outfit.
The Cowboys looked flat in attack in the first half and, despite an improved second stanza, had few answers for the relentless Warriors defence.
It's only Round 5 but they appeared to be exhausted, dejected and low on confidence.
Before the game had even started, former Australian player Greg Alexander claimed that champion playmaker Johnathan Thurston had gone one year too long.
But after the match, coach Paul Green and co-skipper Thurston were upbeat.
While Green conceded confidence was low he was optimistic a change is coming.
"You don't forget how to play footy and you don't lose your talent overnight," Green said.
"It's important we stay strong mentally and trust in our game. We need to work a little bit harder still.
"There was an improvement there ... the pressure we put ourselves by conceding tries early is the worst part at the moment."
As for Alexander's comments, Thurston said the FoxSports commentator was entitled to his opinion while Green was "happy" to hear what had been said.
"It makes me happy," Green said.
"Johnno can respond the way Johnno does."
Thurston also denied any continued problems with the troublesome shoulder that sidelined him last year, saying he just copped a hit to it last night but there was no pain by the end of the game.
While Green and Thurston were positive, things do need to change for next week.
In the 75th minute, Shaun Johnson kicked a penalty goal to seal the deal for the Warriors and the body language across the field said a lot about the two sides.
Behind Johnson, his teammates stood in a circle, arms around each other, listening to the words of skipper Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
In front of Johnson, the Cowboys stood scattered across the park, hands on hips, heads hanging.
They tried a short kick-off to get back into it, but yet again the Warriors proved too strong as they pushed Gavin Cooper over the sideline.
There are many off-field distractions lingering over the Cowboys at the moment, including the future of Green and the fact it is Thurston's last year.
The playing group will deny these factors are affecting their on-field performance, but something is definitely off for the men from Townsville at the moment.
Next week they will face the Bulldogs at home and should walk away with the win.
If they don't, some serious questions need to be asked.
NZ WARRIORS 22 (D Fusitua 2 K Maumalo tries S Johnson 5 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 12 (K Feldt B Hampton tries J Thurston 2 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referee: Matt Cecchin, Phil Henderson