Leaky Cowboys turn focus to defence

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Through 14 rounds of the NRL season, North Queensland conceded an average of just 12.2 points per game to hold the second best defensive record behind NRL ladder-leaders Penrith.

Four games and one bye later, cracks have appeared in the Cowboys' defensive wall after conceding 104 points in four matches.

The Cowboys have conceded exactly 26 points in each of their past four matches, escaping with victories against St George Illawarra, Manly and Brisbane but not good enough to beat premiership heavyweights Cronulla at home.

Co-captain Chad Townsend says the fact they still managed to win games is a promising sign ahead of a final-four push.

"We've been able to jag some wins with players missing and I guess that's a sign of a good football team," Townsend said ahead of Sunday's return clash with the Dragons in Sydney.

"When you can win and win ugly, at the end of the season you know it's a W or it's an L.

"Things we need to improve are our defence but your offence does correlate into that ... if we can handle ourselves with the ball then our defence will definitely benefit from that."

Coinciding with their sudden influx of points leaked is State of Origin forward Reuben Cotter, who has been missing due to a hamstring injury.

Cotter sustained a right hamstring injury in the warm-up before their round-15 clash against Manly, the first game the Cowboys conceded 26 or more points since round four.

The 23-year-old was fresh off debuting for Queensland in the Maroons' game-one victory over NSW before being sidelined for six to eight weeks.

Teammate Tom Gilbert says Cotter adds that little bit extra to the side.

"When Reubs steps up and gets in the middle and ball plays, it adds another dimension to our game" Gilbert said.

"We know what he does in defence but at the end of the day, regardless of if he's doing that or not he just competes on everything.

"He's a real role model for all us forwards when we go and play. Reubs sets the benchmark and if he gets to play this weekend he's going to add another dimension to this team."

Cotter has been named in the reserves for Sunday's game while fellow hamstrung forward Jordan McLean is scheduled for a return in the coming weeks.

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