A shutout win against Canberra – the first in NRL Auckland Nines history – has given the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys a chance to make the quarter-finals of the inaugural $2.5 million tournament at Eden Park.
After succumbing 17-8 to Manly in their opening match, the Cowboys bounced back with a 24-0 defeat of the Raiders to move to second in their pool.
North Queensland will definitely advance to the last eight if they can beat the impressive NZ Warriors, who had two wins from two on day one, in their final group game.
A loss would leave the Cowboys cheering on the winless Raiders against Manly and then hoping their for and against record is good enough to take them through to the quarter-finals.
Whatever happens, North Queensland will have to play the rest of the tournament without new signing Lachlan Coote who was sent to hospital for scans after injuring his knee in the early minutes of the Manly game.
The Cowboys will call on 17th man Anthony Mitchell for Sunday’s action after he sat out the first two games.
In the opening match, North Queensland slid to 10-0 behind against the Sea Eagles after back-to-back tries to David Williams and Peta Hiku before hitting back with one of the best tries of the day – a spectacular one-hand put down by winger Kyle Feldt.
Jason Taumalolo came close to adding to the Cowboys’ fightback but was penalised for a double-movement and Manly sealed the win with a five-point try to Cheyse Blair following a break down their left with four minutes left.
Curtis Rona crossed in the final seconds for a try which may yet prove to be vital if for and against records are needed to determine the pool’s quarter-finalists.
Rookie Javid Bowen came into the Cowboys’ lineup for game two and was one of four try-scorers in a dominant NQ performance to revive their Nines hopes.
A bonus-point penalty try, awarded when Gavin Cooper was taken out by a Raiders defender as he was about to touch down a kick ahead, gave the Cowboys the perfect start and the lead went to 13 thanks to a converted try from Ray Thompson.
North Queensland was just about out of sight when Kane Linnett touched down in the corner, the tackle after Kyle Feldt had raced 40 metres deep into Canberra territory.
Curtis Rona pulled out a great try-saver to keep the Raiders scoreless not long before Bowen grabbed a second bonus point try for NQ.
Manly 17 (David Williams, Peta Hiku, Cheyse Blair (bonus) tries, Daly Cherry-Evans goal) d Cowboys 8 (Kyle Feldt, Curtis Rona tries).
Cowboys 24 (Gavin Cooper - penalty bonus try, Ray Thompson, Kane Linnett, Javid Bowen - bonus, Kyle Feldt 3 goals) d Canberra 0.
Yellow pool standings: NZ Warriors 4 points (+34), NQ Cowboys 2 (+15), Manly 2 (-14), Canberra 0 (-35).
Final pool games: Cowboys v Warriors (10.45am Qld time); Manly v Canberra (11.10am Qld time).