Cowboys freeze in Canberra cold
THE Cowboys' season is only getting worse with the club now fighting to avoid the wooden spoon, after sinking to their 13th loss of the year against the Raiders on Saturday night.
In freezing cold conditions in Canberra, North Queensland's season from hell continued, as the Raiders piled on four late tries to hand the Cowboys the embarrassing 38-12 defeat.
For 65 minutes it looked as if it could be another close affair for the Cowboys.
But they once again showed they do not know how to close out matches this year, with errors and poor defence contributing to their loss.
Canberra had a 14-12 lead just 15 minutes out from fulltime when fullback Lachlan Coote fumbled a Sam Williams kick, knocking the ball straight into the path of winger Michael Oldfield who scored.
This opened the gates for the Raiders as five minutes later Oldfield stepped between Scott Bolton and Jason Taumalolo to claim a runaway try before Antonio Winterstein missed an Aidan Sezer kick to allow Jordan Rapana to cross.
Sezer then delivered the killer blow with just a minute left on the clock.
For the Cowboys, the finals became a mission impossible just two weeks ago, when they slipped to a one-point loss to the Rabbitohs.
Last night, with their fight for the finals gone, a new goal emerged for the embattled Cowboys - they now must fight to avoid the wooden spoon.
The Cowboys fell into 15th spot on the NRL ladder, just two points ahead of the last-placed Eels.
While many critics have already written Parramatta off as the most likely wooden spooners - with the Bulldogs also in the mix - the Cowboys face an uphill battle if they want to send retiring playmaker Johnathan Thurston out with a string of wins.
Over the next seven rounds, the Cowboys will face four top eight teams, including the Dragons, Roosters, Broncos and Sharks.
Cowboys coach Paul Green said while he was disappointed by the effort from his team last night, they were not about to give up on the rest of their season.
"We lacked composure," he said.
"We had our chances ... some of the tries we conceded were not what we're about.
"I'm disappointed with the way we finished the game.
"We still have seven games to go so we'll make sure we're in all of those.
"You have to keep competing. We've never been known to give up, we're not about to give up now."
After starting the season among the premiership favourites, it's been a massive fall from grace for the 2017 runners-up.
Last night, the issues were clear.
The Cowboys finished with a 66 per cent completion rate after making 12 errors across the night.
They were also poor in defence, missing a total of 28 tackles.
They are lacking creativity in attack and struggled to break through Canberra's defensive wall.
Coach Paul Green cannot save this season and that is something he has to realise.
But what he can do is build for next year.
His players are obviously fatigued, physically and mentally.
This is his chance to bring in some fresh faces and allow the Cowboys to head into season 2019 with a fresh mindset and confident attitude.
CANBERRA 38 (M Oldfield 3 J Rapana 2 B Austin A Sezer tries A Sezer 5 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 12 (G Cooper L Coote tries J Thurston 2 goals) at GIO Stadium. Referee: Henry Perenara, Liam Kennedy. Crowd: 11,471