He was the star they were relying on to lead them without their State of Origin quintet, but Lachlan Coote fell short in his latest NRL cameo at five-eighth.
Moved to the frontline in the absence of regular halves Johnathan Thurston and Michael Morgan, Coote had a mixed outing in his side's 14-10 loss to St George Illawarra on Saturday night.
Most of his kicking game was on song but he made a decisive blunder in the 62nd minute, failing to find touch off a penalty that led to an eventual Dragons match-winning try in the ensuing set.
Cowboys coach Paul Green said Coote alone shouldn't be blamed.
"I thought we needed a little bit more. Across the board, the hardest thing is the players we lost play key positions in our team," he said.
"It's very difficult to build up those combinations again and to know where to be and what plays we need to put on at different times. It showed a little bit.
"We had our chances in good field position with penalties and scrums but our attack just wasn't fluent."
The match was Coote's first game in the halves since shifting out of the halves at Penrith in 2013.
While he was unhappy with Coote's outing, Green insisted he wasn't pinning the loss on his No.1, who was pencilled in to play five-eighth for NSW City Origin against Country earlier this month before pulling out.
"I'm not blaming any individual," he said.
"I just think it shows when you take that many key players out, it's very difficult to be as fluent as what we normally are. That was the problem there.
"We had opportunities but just weren't quite good enough to turn them into points."
While he bemoaned Coote's performance at pivot, Green was delighted with the club debut of rising star Jahrome Hughes, who played just his second NRL match after making his debut in 2013.
Green said Hughes hadn't appeared overawed by his call-up.
"He was outstanding. He had some really good involvements, scored a great individual try where he broke four tackles and I thought he did a great job for us," he said.