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Zac Lomax has faced the wrath of the rugby league world after a night to forget in the St George Illawarra Dragons' 31-12 defeat to the North Queensland Cowboys on Friday night.
The Cowboys cemented their spot in the top four with another solid defensive display that earned the home side a 10th win of the season.
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North Queensland were helped at times by the sloppiness of the Dragons, with an awful incident involving Lomax providing the most telling example.
The Dragons centre inexplicably decided to try and throw a flick-pass to teammate Tautau Moga 10 metres out from his own try line, with the risky play backfiring spectacularly.
The speculative pass landed at the knees of Moga and dribbled across the turf, before being scooped up by Cowboys flyer Murray Taulagi, who crossed for a try for the hosts.
— NRL on Nine (@NRLonNine) June 10, 2022
“Zac Lomax throwing a no-look flick pass on your own 10-metre line... that’s become a part of Zac’s game,” a critical Greg Alexander said in commentary for Fox Sports.
“You don’t do it 10 metres out from your own line. He can pull it off, he can put his winger away with a very good flick pass but that wasn’t the time to do it.”
Co-commentator Michael Ennis also let rip after insisting it was a "shocking pass" from Lomax.
“The instructions from Anthony Griffin, listening to what he said (in the press conference), I get the feeling he would have said ‘we need to work hard here, we need to work our way back into it’.
“And the first set after half time, 10 metres off his own line Zac Lomax goes for a no-look flick pass that at best would have hit Tautau Moga on the shins — it was never a quality pass. Murray Taulagi scored and it eroded any comeback for the Dragons.
“At some point (Dragons coach) Anthony Griffin needs to get Zac Lomax into his office and have a real good chat to him about where his game is at because Zac has the ability to pull off brilliant moments but he’s got to earn the right to do it.
“He’s looking for cheap points all the time... just looking for the flashy play all the time.”
Channel Nine league experts Andrew Johns and Paul Gallen were also critical of Lomax, insisting he needs to get back to doing the basics well.
"Gus (Gould) said in commentary there's a really good player in there. But, at the moment, some of the fundamental errors: the flick passes, the basic two-on-ones where he's not drawing the winger to get his winger away... he's just got to nail those fundamentals," Johns said on Nine's post-game coverage.
Gallen added: "He's just got to get the fundamentals of the game right. You're right in that regard. You can't always do the pretty or flashy play; sometimes you've got to bring it back to basics and just get the play done."
BREAKING: Zac Lomax has been crowned the king of bad flick passes, per sources.
— The Sack Report (@TheSackReport) June 10, 2022
I reckon you could just about set your watch to Zac Lomax throwing an high risk low reward flick pass. One a game at least and it probably holds him back from being a great player #NRLCowboysDragons
— Will Beers (@Beersy90) June 10, 2022
You’d hope Zac Lomax would learn to pocket that flick pass now but you just know he won’t.
— Andrew Macca (@Andrewmacca27) June 10, 2022
Cowboys capitalise in error-riddled contest
Tries for Connelly Lemuelu and Taulagi at the beginning and end of the second half capped off an error-strewn evening. The home side were still well in control, however, having scored three tries to one in the first stanza.
Even though the Dragons enjoyed the lion's share of territory in the second half, they could only capitalise late on through a try by Jaydn Su'a in the 74th minute.
Their play-the-balls deep in the final third were shut down with punishing defence by the Cowboys.
Hooker Reece Robson paved the way with 43 tackles, none better than on former teammate Francis Molo on his tryline to force an error late on.
Cowboys coach Todd Payten called his hooker's performance their best, if not on a par with co-skipper Jason Taumalolo.
The Tongan wrecking ball was barnstorming through the middle, leading all players with 191 metres off 18 carries, while Jordan McLean carried well to finish with 124.
Valentine Holmes backed up his origin defensive heroics with another classy performance, and his coach said there wasn't much stopping him running out at home in his 150th NRL game.
In the first half, the home side were the first to score when Tom Dearden capitalised on deep territory, putting Coen Hess through a hole before he offloaded to a surging Scott Drinkwater to plunge over.
They then went back-to-back as Dearden forced a goal-line dropout, with Drinkwater turning provider on the resulting set, grubbering to the in-goal for Peta Hiku to bag their second.
A penalty goal by Holmes made it 14-0 after 22 minutes before the Dragons had their first real crack at the line but Cody Ramsey's try was overturned due to obstruction.
Moments later the home side had their third after a deft pass by Taumalolo in midfield put Griffin Neame through a hole, he in turn finding a supporting Robson to score against his former club.
Moses Suli's try before halftime gave the Dragons some hope but the Cowboys kept them at arm's length to secure the win.
But in a blemish for the Cowboys, they lost young-gun backrower Heilum Luki to a suspected ACL injury in the first half.
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