The Toyota Cowboys have been thrown into a must-win scenario for their next NRL Auckland Nines pool match after losing 17-8 to Manly in their tournament opener at a packed Eden Park.
Although it may be possible to advance to the final eight with just one victory, it’s much more likely that two victories will be required and North Queensland will need to beat Canberra later on this evening to have a chance of moving on.
Manly’s David Williams opened the scoring in the yellow group’s second game, going over on the final tackle in the fourth minute.
The Cowboys couldn’t control the resulting kick off and paid a big price with a Peta Hiku try followed by a Daly Cherry-Evans conversion boosting the Sea Eagles lead to 10-0.
Kyle Feldt provided the hit-back that North Queensland badly needed thanks to a spectacular one-hand put down in the corner with most of his body in the air over the sideline and two Manly defenders close by, desperately trying to stop him.
The smart lead-up work on the inside came from Antonio Winterstein and Zac Santo, who was given his first chance when Lachlan Coote limped off with a leg injury in the opening minutes.
Jason Taumalolo almost reduced the lead even further early in the second half, only to be denied by a double-movement penalty, and Manly sealed their win via a converted bonus-point try to Cheyse Blair with three minutes left.
There was still time for Antonio Winterstein to spill the ball with a try beckoning and Curtis Rona to bag a second North Queensland four-pointer to cut the final margin to nine.
The Cowboys rested Javid Bowen from their 16-man squad, but he may come into contention with Coote’s availability for game two in question.
Canberra will also be desperate for a victory after losing 25-14 to an impressive NZ Warriors lineup.