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Andrew Fifita of the Sharks palms off Ray Thompson of the Cowboys during the Round 11 NRL match between the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks and the North Queensland Cowboys at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Sydney, Thursday, May 18, 2017. Photo Credit: Craig Golding
North Queensland coach Paul Green says the absence of Johnathan Thurston can't be blamed for his NRL side's costly last-tackle options in their 18-14 loss to Cronulla.
After leading 14-0 at the break, the Cowboys struggled for field position as they conceded three unanswered tries to go down to the defending premiers in Sydney on Thursday night.
However, at times they only had themselves to blame.
They handed the ball over meekly on the last in the final 20 minutes three times with turnovers, as the Sharks took full advantage twice to score and complete the come-from-behind win.
"We were in a position to win that game," Cowboys coach Paul Green said.
"But we just put ourselves under too much pressure.
"If we want to hand the ball over on halfway all time then 14 points is not enough."
It marked the team's third loss in five games without Thurston this season, as he races the clock to be fit for the State of Origin series opener for Queensland on May 31.
But regardless of missing their main man, Green said the errors simply shouldn't have occurred.
"That's one of your fundamentals of footy," he said.
"How you give the opposition the ball is really important."
Thursday's second half display was a direct contrast to the Cowboys' first 30-point haul without Thurston in five years against Canterbury last week.
On that occasion Queensland five-eighth hopeful Michael Morgan was dominant, and he again led the Cowboys' attack with precision in the first half on Thursday before it fell apart.
But Green said the blame couldn't just be laid on him and fellow half Ray Thompson.
"It's not just our kickers, it's all of us," he said.
"As a team we've all got a role to play in that and recognising in a game what the team needs.
"If you've been under pressure you get the footy you've got to make sure you get out of your end. We just failed to do that tonight."
© AAP 2017