North Queensland backrower Gavin Cooper hopes a step up in class in opposition has the same effect on his team after their “awful” last round NRL win.

After an “awful” golden point win, North Queensland backrower Gavin Cooper hopes a step up in the class of opposition will lift his side in Saturday night’s crunch NRL home clash with Manly.

Cooper baulked at saying they took wooden spooners Cronulla for granted but admitted they “put the foot off the gas” before a late Johnathan Thurston field goal sealed the dramatic 20-19 win on Monday night.

“That was awful,” he said of their display.

North Queensland booked a finals berth with the less than convincing victory and can finish as high as fourth if they defeat the table-topping Sea Eagles.

Easier said than done – the last time the Cowboys downed Manly was their 22-20 triumph way back in round eight 2011 in Townsville.

Manly will back themselves to seal the minor premiership on Saturday night after winning the last six clashes against North Queensland.

But Cooper – nominated as North Queensland’s Ken Stephen Medal finalist for community work – believed Manly would bring the best out of them.

“I don’t want to discredit Cronulla but when we have played the better teams we have aimed up a little bit better – hopefully that is the case on Saturday,” he said.

“There is a bit to play for.

“They have been a speed bump for the club for a while.

“We took a step back (against Cronulla). It gets really serious next week but this is when we need to start playing our best footy.”

North Queensland made an encouraging start against a Cronulla outfit without 17 regular first graders when boom lock Jason Taumalolo scored within the first 90 seconds.

“I think we put the foot off the gas after that first try,” Cooper said.

“I don’t think we are allowed to score in the first two minutes any more.

“We didn’t take them lightly during the week…(but) they nearly blew us off the park.”

Cooper said they wouldn’t be able to get out of jail if they produced a similar effort against Manly, who again showed their fighting spirit to seal a Jamie Lyon-inspired, last gasp 26-25 win over Penrith last round.

“They showed on the weekend that you can never discount them, they plucked one out of thin air,” he said.

“They will be coming up here looking to ruin our night.”