The NYC Cowboys are starting to lose touch with the top eight after losing 28-18 to the South Sydney Rabbitohs in a mistake-riddled round 15 clash at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight.
Their third straight loss leaves North Queensland’s under-20s six points adrift of the finals positions with 10 rounds remaining.
Prop forward Viliame Kikau collected a second-half double for the Cowboys to again show he is one of the most improved players in the competition.
After a composed start from the 13th-placed North Queenslanders, it needed a last-gasp tackle from fullback Yamba Bowie to deny Souths the first try in the eighth minute.
Rabbitohs winger Tom Hughes returned a short kick 85 metres before a flying Bowie, probably the quickest of the Cowboys, brought him to ground.
Lenny Magey finished off the Rabbitoh who had wriggled free, but he earned 10 minutes in the sin bin for holding down too long.
Even though they were down to 12, the Cowboys posted the opening four pointer via hooker Josh Chudleigh who went by himself from dummy-half close to the line to score after NQ had marched down the field on back-to-back penalties.
Corey Jensen nailed the conversion to put the Cowboys up by six.
Souths hit back almost straight away after NQ crucially came up with a handling error in the set after the kick off.
A couple of tackles later, centre Tevita Cottrell made the most of his side’s one-man advantage to score in the left corner.
With Magey back on the field, the Cowboys went close to adding to their 6-4 lead, his wing partner Samsen O’Neill losing control just as he was about to claim a four-pointer.
It turned out to be a vital mistake.
Steadily gaining control as NQ’s completion rate dropped to just above 50%, Souths hit the lead for the first time when Jack Gosiewski latched on to a Wallace Tangiiti grubber into the in-goal in the 31st minute.
Down 10-6 at half time, the Cowboys applied almost all the pressure in the first 10 minutes after the break without being able to level up.
Jack Kelleher looked try-bound until he was thumped by two Rabbitohs defenders, forcing the ball loose.
It was a different story for the Rabbitohs, who produced a try with virtually their first attack of the half with the competition’s top tackler, Cheyne Whitelaw, finding a hole to touch down under the crossbar.
The Cowboys desperately needed to score next and Fijian prop Viliame Kikau delivered with 14 to go.
Always a threat close to the line, he took a pass from dummy-half and manoeuvred his way through three Bunnies.
Jensen’s conversion reduced the margin to four.
However, just like after their first-half try, the Cowboys weren’t able to get through their set after the kick off, this time being forced into a goal-line dropout.
Souths prop Zane Musgrove went through the heart of the NQ defence soon after to restore their 10-point lead and another try under the posts to Clayton Williams with four minutes left ensured the two points would head south with the visitors.
Kikau’s impressive second try, where he showcased his stepping talents, arrived with 10 seconds to go.
NYC COWBOYS: 1 Yamba Bowie, 2 Samsen O’Neill, 3 Lenny Magey, 4 Conor Carey, 5 Scott Schulte, 6 Ty Carucci, 7 Delayne Ashby, 8 Viliame Kikau, 9 Josh Chudleigh, 10 Jack Kelleher (c), 16 Regan Grieve, 12 Corey Jensen, 13 David Munro. Interchange: 14 Dan Clarke, 15 Andrew Niemoeller, 17 Michael Barclay, 18 Kieran Quabba.