QUICK WRAP: Cowboys vs Titans
25 March 2023 - North Queensland play Gold Coast in round 4 of the NRLM season in early Saturday game at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Was the game worth watching?
Yes. If you love something approaching an arm wrestle punctuated by some absolutely bizarre action, then you could say The Small Game, the Other Derby, the Semi-Classic, Queensland’s Third Oldest Rivalry™ delivered.1
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Did the Cowboys or the Titans look like the better team?
Over the course of the match, you’d give the nod to the Cowboys. The Titans started well early but scored two tries through a guy that the league hasn’t gotten on top of yet - even though it seems like it would be the easiest thing to do - and other than that, didn’t look particularly threatening when camped in the red zone, both from a lack of attacking scheme and a firm enough defence. While the Cowboys scored two tries off some absolute bullshit, they were also able to get Townsend to create two tries through repeatable actions.
Were they the better team?
It’s a close run thing on the stats board. Both teams accumulated the same WARG, to the thousandth of a win. There was only 0.6 SCWP in it. Possession swung back and forth several times during the match.
But I’d be inclined to default back to the eye test and award the Cowboys the win on a technicality, which given the Titans’ troops should probably be cause for concern that North Queensland didn’t blow them out of the water.
Did you notice?
Chad Townsend playing the long game. Tamou’s try is a whole of set effort. The first two tackles are half-hearted runs from forwards at the posts. Robson swings the ball out to Dearden, then on to Townsend who hits Nanai for a big run.
Townsend does the same thing again with Hess, who charges at a half hole a bit to the left of the Nanai tackle.
Then, third time lucky: Tamou wanders through a gap to the again slightly to the left of the Hess tackle, like a senior citizen moving through a crowded shopping centre.
Robson plays a role here, subtly getting in the way. In fact, Fotuaika moves as if he thinks the Cowboys 9 is a team mate, which is embarrassing.
It’s several simple actions that force the same defenders to make repeat tackles while compressing the line. Perhaps a more robustly defensive team doesn’t fall for this but the Titans do.
Given that Townsend has been on enough winning sides that he must know something about what’s he’s doing, I assume this was all intentional. Watching it live, my first thought was that he was an idiot, trying the same basic thing three times and expecting a different result, and then he got lucky off some woeful defence.
Of course, he got that result - from smarts, not from luck - because that was the intent. He did the same thing because a battering ram relies on multiples hits. Nanai’s, Hess’s and finally Tamou’s lines were just different enough to catch the Titans defence flat footed. It turns out that I am the idiot.
I have to admit that I missed the first ten to fifteen minutes as I focussed on the end of an absolute barn burner of a finish to the Tigers at Hunters in QCup.
Tanah Boyd seems capable enough in first grade but he can’t be the only playmaker on the field if we’re being serious. There’s not enough in his kitbag for that, even though the Cows seemed to determine to either give him acres of spaces or hit him late or, once, take his long pass to the house. The Titans will need Brimson and Foran and Verrills back ASAP. They offered little in attack and made no gains while Nanai was binned.
Tom Chester scored a try by bouncing a ball off his face, onto his foot and then grounding a fumble by Jayden Campbell. That’s weird.
Plenty of errors on both sides. The penalties were equally plentiful, including the Cowboys being penalised for time violation on the scrum, overturning possession after a stupid Titans error, and the Titans throwing the ball away but getting it back on a Val Holmes shoulder charge. That’s weird too.
Jury’s still out on Jayden Campbell for mine. Need to keep a closer eye on him. He got a good score this week but I think he’s still fundamentally too small.
Alofiana Khan-Pereira scored two more tries by being out there on the wing, just as we explored last time, and in one case, frying Kyle Feldt with his acceleration. He butchered a couple more from impatience. It’s clear that the Titan’s left side is their stronger side. Mayhaps Holbrook would like to firm up the structure there to make it deadlier?
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I’ve been trying to name all the Queensland derbies and it has absolutely rotted my brain. Looking forward to the Battle for the Bruce in round 6 and Brawl on the Beach in round 8 though.