The North Queensland Cowboys need to find answers and quickly after they were demolished 48-10 by the Cronulla Sharks.
The Cowboys had no answers for the Sharks’ fluidity, despite both the Sharks going down to 15 men for the remaining 55 minutes.
Josh Dugan (concussion) and Ronaldo Mulitalo (knee) both left the field but the Sharks were galvanised by their reduced troops.
The Sharks would be the first to score after some quick hands down the left saw Mawene Hiroti dive over in the corner.
The Cowboys would hit back after a stray Chad Townsend pass was picked up by Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who raced 80m to score.
Dugan then showed that he has lost none of his try-scoring ability after he pounced on a well-weighted Townsend grubber behind the line.
Another quick left-side play ended up in the hands of Connor Tracey who spun out of one tackle and was able to burrow his way over the line.
The Sharks’ momentum continued as the halftime break neared when hooker Blayke Brailey kicked a 40/20.
A magical offload from Sharks prop Braden Hamlin-Uele saw the Sharks extend their lead, with Matt Moylan there to take the ball close to the line and score.
The first-half scoring was not done after Will Kennedy and Hiroti combined down the right flank, a play that saw the Sharks fullback open his account for the day.
Matters continued to get worse for the Cowboys as on the stroke of half-time, an error found its way to Brailey before he grubbered ahead for Tracey to pounce and score his second.
Although they managed to somewhat stem the flow in the second, it was just a matter of time before the Sharks would score more points.
Townsend kicked crossfield and the ball went over the heads of the chasers and leapers, with Teig Wilton scoring a simple try on the left.
The Sharks would shift their attack left and went through some paper-thin Cowboys defence, as Townsend found Will Kennedy charging through for his second.
The Cowboys would grab the final try of the night but it was clear that they were outplayed in every aspect.
Valentine Holmes took the line on, spun, and reached out to score despite pressure from defenders.
In the end, the Sharks took the game out 48-10 as the Cowboys were left with some genuine soul-searching.
Sharks coach John Morris praised his side for how they were able to perform despite losing both Dugan and Mulitalo in the first half.
“We’re kind of used to it now,” Morris said.
“We try to put the boys under adversity at training and have different kind of scenarios, like taking them down to 12 men and pulling certain guys off the field but you can’t really get that sort of practice until you are in a situation like we were last week.”
Cowboys coach Todd Payten criticised his players for a lack of heart and commitment, as they conceded forty points for the second straight week.
“It’s hard to disagree,” Payten said.
“We are making some poor decisions with the ball which is putting our defence under pressure and then we are not defending any errors.”
Interviewed by Fox Sports post-match, Cowboys hooker Jake Granville was equally displeased.
“Defensively, we’re not resilient enough,” Granville said.
“We’re soft at the moment and a bit disconnected. Something’s got to change.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Will Kennedy (CRO)
2. Chad Townsend (CRO)
1. Braden Hamlin-Uele (CRO)