AAP Rugby

Cowboy Clifford’s NRL talent ‘not issue’

By AAP Newswire

North Queensland coach Paul Green hopes Jake Clifford's breakout performance will be the catalyst to spark his promising NRL career.

Clifford was the star of the show on Sunday in Gosford with a try and last-minute field goal in the Cowboys' dramatic 15-12 upset of reigning premiers the Sydney Roosters.

The 21-year-old was playing just the 16th game of his career, having only been inserted last month as the team's first-choice halfback.

His eye-catching effort was sorely needed for a North Queensland side who had lost three on the trot and entered the match without captain Michael Morgan.

"This is a game he should take a lot of confidence out of," Green said.

"We all know the talent he's got. To be fair, up to this point, he just hasn't been able to produce it consistently. And it was important for him (on Sunday).

"We lost Morgo obviously after (State of) Origin on Wednesday, so late change with Johnny Asiata going into the halves.

"So we really needed Cliffo to step up today and do his job.

"And I thought he was outstanding."

Both teams traded field-goal attempts in the final 10 minutes to try to break the 12-12 deadlock, with Clifford missing two attempts either side of the posts.

But he refused to shy away from a third look with one minute left on the clock.

"That was a really good sign, that he didn't let that hold him back," Green said.

"And when the moment came again, he stepped up and made the play, which is a huge day for him. I'm really pleased for him.

"Talent's not his issue. He's just probably needed a little bit more confidence, and that's the biggest thing he should take out of today."

More importantly for the Cowboys, the win lifts them to 10th spot on 16 points, equal with Cronulla and the Wests Tigers just outside the top eight.

And they might get Morgan back for next week's clash with South Sydney, pending clearance from medical staff.

"The win today has kept us in the hunt, which is important," Green said.

"It's still wide open there and we've given ourselves a chance. So it's important we don't waste the win today and back it up with a few more."