The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys under-20s have overcome a sluggish start to post their tenth win of their 2015 NYC campaign with a 38-16 triumph over the Raiders in chilly Canberra today.
Todd Payten’s young men piled on 26 unanswered points in the second half after a mistake-riddled opening 40 minutes had the visitors trailing 16-12 at the break.
But led by some powerful running from front-row forwards Ross Bella, Braden Uele and Viliame Kikau, the Cowboys simply overwhelmed the Raiders, whose mounting injury toll had them down to one player on the bench.
The first half was a scrappy affair for both teams, and the Cowboys got off to the worst possible start with an error in the opening set leading to a try to the Raiders – the first of a Tevita Pangai Junior double – after just 90 seconds.
Bowen product Temone Power then levelled things for the Cowboys minutes later and scores were locked at 6-all, with conversions for both tries successful.
The Cowboys though failed to find momentum as they were cruelled by errors and conceded penalties leading to Dylan McGrath crossing out wide for the Raiders’ second after 13 minutes.
But, in a tit-for-tat first 40, Cowboys’ hard-working hooker Andrew Niemoeller burrowed over from dummy-half, with Cooper Bambling’s successful conversion giving the Cowboys a 12-10 lead.
That lasted nine minutes as Pangai Junior scored his second – and what would be the Raiders final – try following a successful captain's challenge on the grounding.
A conversion gave the home side – who were seventh on the NYC ladder heading into the match – an unlikely 16-12 lead headed into half time.
The second half started out like much of the first half – with errors from both sides – until bench forward Kikau barged over in the 53rd minute.
A score of 16-all became 18-16 and the Cowboys were in front, which was where they stayed.
Four more tries would follow as Payten’s forward pack continued to dominate the Raiders, allowing backs like Gideon Mosby and Akeripa Tia Kilifi – who was one of the Cowboys’ best – to find plenty of space.
Tia Kilifi, Bella, winger Scott Schulte and centre Conor Carey all posted four-pointers as the Cowboys finished home with a wet sail, their staunch defence as impressive as their open attack.
The Cowboys have posted 92 points and conceded just 22 in their past two matches following today’s win and a 54-6 triumph over the Eels in round 13.
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys 38 (Temone Power, Andrew Niemoeller, Viliame Kikau, Akeripa Tia Kilifi, Ross Bella, Scott Schulte, Conor Carey tries; Cooper Bambling 5 goals) def Canberra Raiders 16 (Tevita Pangai Junior 2, Dylan McGrath tries; Lachlan Croker, Zac Woolford goals) at GIO Stadium.