Wests Tigers have only tasted victory once in the past five weeks, but don’t go blaming the young halves.
That’s the opinion of coach Jason Taylor, who described the performances of the prodigiously talented Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks as “solid” so far this season.
A Tigers outfit depleted by Origin host a similarly understrength North Queensland side at Campbelltown on Saturday and Taylor made no effort to disguise where his team needed to improve.
“Our issues aren’t what we’re doing with the ball, our issues aren’t the combination of our halves,” Taylor said on Friday.
“Those guys are going well.
“Some games haven’t been as good as others, but across the course of the season they’ve done a really solid job for us.
“Our issue are in other areas. It’s just most people don’t see the other areas, they’re just looking for the fancy parts.”
The Tigers were worn down by a Newcastle forward pack that made over 300 more metres against them in a 22-12 defeat last week.
The week prior to that, a rampant Roosters side amassed over 500 more metres.
“It’s pretty clear for us – we’ve got to improve on what we’re doing defensively,” Taylor said.
“The Knights made too many metres on us last week and we’ve got to fix that.”
Taylor will be without skipper Robbie Farah and prop Aaron Woods, who are both away on Origin duty. Veteran Dene Halatau and youngster Matt Lodge will deputise in their place.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are aiming for their eighth straight win but will have to do so in the absence of Origin stars Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, James Tamou and Michael Morgan.
In a late boost, Kiwi international Jason Taumalolo has flown to Sydney and could be a last minute inclusion in the team.
STATS THAT MATTER
– The most recent meeting was a complete demolition by the Cowboys, with the 64-6 scoreline setting a club record for biggest win. It was also the Tigers’ second biggest loss and worst defeat since 2001.
– The Wests Tigers have completely dominated this match-up in Sydney for almost a decade, winning 11 straight games since 2005 – with the Cowboys reaching 20 points on just one occasion. At Campbelltown, the Tigers have won four straight matches.
– Nine of the 26 teams to have won eight straight matches in a season since 1998 have won the grand final, and a further five have finished runners-up. This means if the Cowboys win this match they have a better than 50 per cent chance statistically of making the big dance.