By STEVE MASCORD
AUSTRALIA prop James Tamou does not believe he has done enough to keep his jersey for the April 19 Test against New Zealand and reckons only a five-star showing for North Queensland on Friday will save him.
Tamou offered the stinging self-assessment despite running 199 metres in last night’s 30-0 Cowboys win against Penrith at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Asked if he felt he had earned the right in the first five rounds of the NRL to keep his place in the national side for the trans-Tasman international at Canberra Stadium, Tamou said: “To be honest, not really.
“I wouldn’t be filthy or anything if I didn’t get picked. I’d put that on myself. I know I haven’t been performing (to) my standards.
“Hopefully, the game against the Broncos will really set it up for me. I don’t know about Thumper (fellow prop Matt Scott) but the form we were in, we had to definitely lift.
“We were still in first gear. You get front rowers who play one good game and then, the next game, they can shy away. Hopefully I can do the same thing against the Broncos.
“It’s a dog-eat-dog world, rugby league. With the rep side of it, you’ve got to watch out for other front rowers. They are definitely out there to take your spot.
“I wouldn’t say I’m up there at the top but there’s always guys trying to pull you down and trying to better than you
“It’s up to me to step up.”
After the Cowboys’ win – they led 24-0 at halftime – the diagnosis for halfback Robert Lui was altered from ankle ligaments to a kneecap problem. He is likely to be missing for a fortnight.
“We all know what he’s been through to get here and we all feel sorry for him,” said centre Brent Tate, involved in the lead-up to Lui’s 16th-minute try.
“But he’ll get his chance.”
Lui’s departure marked a slowing of the scoring deluge; Neil Henry’s side was averaging better than a point a minute at the time he crossed for his try.
The 22-0 lead at 18 minutes became 24-0 right on halftime and 30-0 when centre Kane Linnett posted his second try a minute into the second half.
But the match then got bogged down somewhat, with Penrith second rower Clint Newton booked for a high tackle on NQ hooker Anthony Mitchell in the 61st minute in front of 12,431 fans.
In the final game whose kick-off time is affected by daylight saving this season, fans could have been forgiven for heading to the home for a few extra hours’ sleep when it was only one-quarter over.
North Queensland winger Kalifa Fai-Fai Loa scored after only three minutes, off a Matt Bowen bomb, and Linnett got his first three minutes later.
That touchdown would have been disallowed under the previous interpretation of the obstruction rule as NQ forward Tariq Sims appeared to make contact with a defender while running a decoy. Under the new interpretation, the green light came up.
Further tries to winger Antonio Winterstain and Lui left little doubt that the Cowboys would end a three-match losing streak after losses to Melbourne, Newcastle and the Warriors.
Henry could also not guarantee winger Ashley Graham would come back into the team for Friday’s clash with Brisbane, given the performances of Faifai Loa and Antonio Winterstein.
Whoever plays on Friday, Henry and co-captain Scott agreed, a significant improvement would be needed on last night’s effort.
“On the back of a good win against the Titans, no doubt there’ll be a massive crowd down and Suncorp and we’re going to have to be a lot better than we were tonight, that’s for sure,” said Scott.
“Opening the season (against Brisbane) is great but any time we come up against them is a game we look forward to.
“They’re tough games and they showed last night what a quality side they are.”
Henry agreed, saying: “I think anyone watching that game (tonight) would see that compared to last night’s Broncos game, we are going to need to improve considering we’re going down there.
“And we’re realists about that.”
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said his men tried hard but were “just bad”.
“I can’t fault the preparation, the effort’s there, but execution in so many areas was poor – the worst we’ve had all year,” he said.
“There’s a reality to us that we aren’t fancied and there’s a reason for that. There’s guys down on their confidence and that happens when you lose a few games as well.”
NORTH QUEENSLAND 30 (K Linnett 2 K Faifai Loa A Winterstein R Lui tries J Thurston 5 goals) bt PENRITH 0 at 1300SMILES Stadium. Referees: A Devich/C James. Crowd: 12,431.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD