For North Queensland Toyota Cowboys under-20s coach Aaron Payne, the most pleasing thing about last weekend’s win over the Warriors wasn’t the 70 points the team racked up in the 12-try-to-two blitz.
It was the team’s desperation in defence and commitment to doing the little things in that area correctly that most brought a smile to his face.
And the second-year mentor says he wants to see more of the same against what he rates as a tougher opponent in the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
The fourth-placed Cowboys rocketed up the ladder following the 70-10 win in Townsville, the for-and-against boost a huge leap forward on a crowded ladder with finals looming less than two months away.
“We were good defensively against the Warriors and we were also strong in the ruck, showing good leg speed with our carries,” Payne said.
“When we had the ball in good field position – and despite establishing a good lead early – we didn’t push passes in a quest for cheap points – we were patient and controlled.”
Payne said the challenge in Sydney on Saturday would be to back that performance up with something similar against stronger competition, with the Roosters winning last year’s NYC grand final.
“The Roosters are 13th on the ladder but are a much better team than their current standing indicates,” he said.
“They’ve lost a number of games by small margins so we need to come ready to play.”
Payne said he was pleased for his young strike centre Enari Tuala, who was two games back from a two-month injury layoff after breaking his jaw playing for the Junior Kangaroos.
“He was understandably scratchy in his first game back but against the Warriors, he was outstanding – strong carries, great finishing and rock-solid defence,” Payne said.
Saturday’s NYC game at Allianz Stadium kicks off at 5.15pm.