McClennan takes the rap for red-faced Warriors' latest capitulation
Cowboys 52 Warriors 12
Three try hero ... Ashley Graham, right.
WARRIORS coach Brian McClennan last night admitted he was preparing to personally pay the price for the 2011 grand finalists crashing from play-off reckoning with a 40-point flogging at the hands of North Queensland.
After seeing his side leak 97 points in two weeks - after a fortnight of giving up 18-0 leads to lose - the successful Kiwis and Leeds coach basically admitted his head was on the chopping block despite being under contract next season.
"I'm big enough and ugly enough to cop it," McClennan said after watching Cowboys winger Ashley Graham cruise to the top of the NRL try-scoring charges with a hat-trick in a 52-12, nine-try pasting.
"I'm the bloke steering the ship, steering the bus. The pressure comes on me. I accept that."
Asked what form he expected that pressure to take, McClennan answered: "I'm not sure as yet. That will unfold I guess. All I can say is I'm doing the best I can do, I'm doing what I know and what's worked for us in the past.''
North Queensland led 22-0 after 19 minutes. Prop James Tamou (ankle) and utility Ray Thompson (shoulder) suffered minor first-half injuries and were rested for the remainder of the contest.
The Warriors managed the final try of the first half but centre Kane Linnett sliced through to touch down in the 44th minute and resume the rout. There were further Cowboys tries at regular intervals before Manu Vatuvei's consolation effort.
Halfback Michael Morgan had some involvement in most of his side's raids - indicating that Johnathan Thurston may have found the foil he has long sought.
"Michael Morgan was outstanding," Cowboys coach Neil Henry said. "Backing himself to go through the line, he was a handful on that edge. He's shown glimpses of his attack in the previous weeks. He's been building and he's had quite a few line breaks. But when he punched through the line and backed himself - I thought it was tremendous for him."
Captain Matt Scott said of the 20-year-old playmaker: "He's always been around and we've always seen the potential of the player he could be. The club's done a good job of managing him, [they've] drip-fed him into first grade and he's just grown from that and gained confidence the more footy he plays."
Captain Vatuvei, who scored his 100th try for the club last night, said the team was "disappointed and embarrassed" by the defeat and by missing out on the finals. The Warriors' chances were not helped by what appeared to be a serious ankle injury to fullback Kevin Locke.
McClennan said inconsistency throughout the year was the reason for the disappointing season. "That ends our chances of getting in the top eight.''