Gavin Cooper retreats to the tryline after another Sharks try. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Gavin Cooper retreats to the tryline after another Sharks try. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Cowboys vow to put Sharks loss in past

GAVIN Cooper is adamant the Cowboys can drag themselves out of their early season funk despite falling to their worst home loss in almost a decade against Cronulla last weekend.

The Sharks piled on 30 unanswered points in the second half of the 42-16 thrashing which was also the Cowboys' biggest defeat in Townsville since the Storm beat them 34-6 in round 8, 2010.

The Cowboys have been lethargic out of halftime in their past two games, giving up five tries in 18 minutes against Cronulla after conceding three in 10 minutes in their 29-10 loss to the Broncos.

That form slump brings back bad memories of last season when the Cowboys dropped five of their first six matches as they went on to miss the finals.

Cooper said the Cowboys actually felt good about their performance in the first half against the Sharks, but they were let down by a lack of intensity after the break.

"It's funny, rugby league. We could watch that first half and pat ourselves on the back, but the second half we'd all have our heads in our hands," Cooper said.

"We were just a little bit too nice at the start of that second half. We were really worried about giving away some penalties and we weren't really tight around the ruck.

"Yes, you look at the scoreboard and you'll say they've pulled us apart with good footy, but I think they scored three tries off kicks in behind the line … so they weren't breaking us down.

Cooper is crunched by the Sharks defence. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Cooper is crunched by the Sharks defence. Picture: Zak Simmonds

"They were just running harder than us and more desperate.

"We've got a lot to work on, but the beauty is it's still round three. We've got a long time to go in this competition, we just can't be having this chat the same time next week."

Cooper was quick to palm off suggestions that the Cowboys would continue to struggle without superstar forward Jason Taumalolo, who will be sidelined until at least May with a knee injury.

The Cowboys lost the forward battle against the Sharks, but Cooper said Taumalolo's impact with the ball wouldn't have made a difference when they were forced to do so much defence.

"We missed the way he carries the ball, but the start of that second half I think we touched the ball for two sets of six in 15 minutes so Jase would've just been out there helping us tackle," Cooper said.

"If we don't put our bodies in front and stop them, that's where Jase comes to life with the ball.

"We've got to learn to play without Jase because he could be out for a little while."