Cowboys need fast start for NRL finals run
COWBOYS coach Paul Green will lay down the law to his players that another tardy start against defending premiers South Sydney tonight could threaten their hopes of a first-ever top-two finish and home ground advantage in the NRL finals.
The clash is crucial for both sides, especially Souths who face a horrendous run home with clutch games against the Bulldogs, Broncos and Roosters to finish the season.
They are fourth on 28 points, but need at least one more win to guarantee a top-eight finish, and at least two victories to have a shot a shot at the top four.
The Cowboys are eyeing off top spot, but have been guilty of too many poor starts in recent weeks.
While they have managed to pull off some memorable come-from-behind wins, including one over Canberra after trailing 18-4 at halftime, and again against the Eels when down 24-6 at the break before winning 36-30, they won't be able to get away with that against a quality outfit like Souths.
Green said he expected outside back Kirisome Auva'a to play his first game for Souths this year after Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire booked him on the flight to Townsville.
Auva'a has not played this season after serving a suspension for domestic violence, but was outstanding in last year's grand final victory against the Bulldogs and would be a valuable addition to the Souths backline which lacks some fire power out wide.
"I'm expecting him to play He was part of their grand final side last year. He went okay in the lower grades last week," Green said.
The coach said his players were hurting from last week's 30-18 loss to the Sharks, the only team that has beaten the Cowboys since round three.
"Everyone was hurting after last week. They realise the opportunity they had and they didn't play as well as they know they can," Green said.
"When that happens, next week can't come quick enough. Players are keen to get out there and get rid of some frustration."
World-class prop Matt Scott sat out last week's game and Green said the Kangaroos forward would be motivated to play well against Souths.
"Given he watched from the sidelines (last week) and couldn't do anything to help us against the Sharks, I think he'll be fresh and motivated to play well," Green said.
"He (Scott) is one of our captains, he's a great player, I don't need to comment on what he has done in the game, but he will be keen to get out and play and I'm sure he will make a difference to our team."
Green said that South would be dangerous in the halves with Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary re-united and champion fullback Greg Inglis ready to play himself back into form.