Victorious Toyota Cowboys coach Paul Green hailed the defensive qualities of his NRL Auckland Nines squad following their stunning tournament victory at Eden Park tonight.
In 36 minutes of semi-final and final action, North Queensland conceded just one try, playing a style of game that few thought was possible in the shortened style of the code.
That five-pointer came from Bronco Ben Hunt in the final after the Cowboys had held the NZ Warriors tryless after conceding five to them in a 28-23 pool defeat earlier on day two.
Green, who brought over one of the biggest sides of the tournament including forwards James Tamou, Jason Taumalolo, Tariq Sims and Gavin Cooper, told the media that he thought he had a side that would suit the nine-a-side format.
He put into place the same defensive plans he has in mind for the NRL season proper.
“People talk about the Nines beforehand as being a free-flowing attacking game but we really valued our defence, particularly against the Warriors (in the semi-final),” he said.
“They (Warriors) are a big side with plenty of second phase and some quick outside backs with good footwork. We knew that defensive attitude would hold us in good stead and that's what won it for us.”
Cowboys captain Gavin Cooper hinted the defensive display was a sign of what's to come from the Cowboys this year.
“We brought our same structures that we'll be playing in round 1 and right throughout the year over here - everyone turning up for each other and working hard for each other.
“We let each other down a little bit in that first game and even against the Warriors in the pool game.
“Then against the Warriors in the [semi] final and then against the Broncos there, everyone just kept turning up.”
Green said his squad would use the Nines success as a springboard to the season proper.
“It’s been a wonderful weekend. It’s been well-organised and to win it showed a lot of ticker, a lot of guts in the way we played particularly those last two games,” he said.
“The boys are over the moon about it.”