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New Cowboy Justin O’Neill began his career with North Queensland by scoring the opening try of his team’s NRL Auckland Nines title defence at Eden Park today.

The Cowboys, who played some razzle-dazzle footy at times, won 17-8 against O’Neill’s former club Melbourne in the first game of the Waiheke Pool that also features South Sydney and Penrith.

The Rabbitohs, who North Queensland face in their next appearance, beat the Panthers 11-4 in their opening match.

O’Neill took an expertly placed kick out wide from Robert Lui to score his first four-pointer in Cowboys colours before Matt Wright added the conversion from out wide.

NQ kicked further clear with a bonus point try to back-rower Ethan Lowe, again converted by Wright.

Trailing 13-0 at the break after running into an imposing Cowboys defensive wall, Melbourne climbed back into the contest via a try to Kurt Mann.

However, the win was sealed when Wright touched down in the right corner.

Hymel Hunt’s late try cut the winning margin to nine.

John Asiata, Ben Spina, Coen Hess and Zac Santo were rested from the Cowboys’ squad of 18.

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.