NYC preview: Cowboys v Warriors

North Queensland Toyota Cowboys v New Zealand Warriors NYC
3.15pm QLD time/ 5.15pm NZ time, Saturday 22 August
Mt Smart Stadium
Referee: Shane Rehm
Tough judges: Jamal Thompson & Rochelle Tamarua
NRL Cowboys v Warriors: 5.30pm QLD time/ 7.30pm NZ time, Saturday 22 August

TEAMS

COWBOYS: 1.Kalyn Ponga, 2. Gideon Mosby, 3. Akeripa Tia Kilifi, 4. Conor Carey, 5. Scott Schulte, 6. Kyle Laybutt, 7. Cooper Bambling, 8. Viliame Kikau, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. Braden Uele, 11. Kieran Quabba (c), 12. Temone Power, 13. Jordan Kenworthy. Interchange: 14. Mitch Dunn, 15. Bill Cullen, 16. David Munro, 17. Ross Bella.

WARRIORS: 1. Bradley Abbey, 2. Lewis Soosemea, 3. Junior Pauga, 4. Semisi Tyrell, 5. Paul Ulberg, 6. Kauri Aupouri,  7. Erin Clark, 8. Bunty Afoa,  9. Casey Lafaele, 10. Paul Tuli, 11. Ofahiki Ogden, 12. Matiu Love-Henry,  13. Jazz Tevega.  Interchange: 14. Christopher Sio, 15. Koli Oneone, 16. Tualima Tualima, 17. Amoni Tufui.

KEY FACTS

To say the under-20s Cowboys are on a roll is a massive understatement. They have won 11 straight games and can move to outright first on the National Youth Competition ladder with a win over the Warriors on Saturday given that the Dragons upset top-placed Penrith 28-16 on Thursday night. A Cowboys win would move them to 41 competition points as the Panthers remain on 39 following the loss to the 15th-placed Dragons.

Speedy Cowboys winger Gideon Mosby gets a chance to extend on his NYC-record 31 tries against the Warriors on Saturday. Mosby broke and bettered the previous try-scoring record with a double against the Rabbitohs in Round 23, and with three regular season games remaining plus finals matches, there’s every possibility the Torres Strait product can reach 40 tries in a season. Mosby this week signed a new deal at the Cowboys which will see him at the club until at least 2017. It’s a great sign of confidence from the club in the 18-year-old, who attends classes at Kirwan State School.

The Warriors, always strong at this level, are the defending NYC premiers and despite currently sitting in seventh place on the ladder, can’t be taken lightly. The team scored a late try to sneak into the top eight last season after three teams were logjammed; and went on to win the competition after several thrilling wins in the finals. The young Kiwis currently have 10 wins, 10 losses and a draw to the Cowboys’ 17 wins, three losses and a draw.

Young Cowboys fullback Kalyn Ponga is continuing to make a huge impact in the NYC after scoring a hat-trick in the team’s 44-30 win over South Sydney last round. Ponga, 17, has played four NYC games so far, dotting down for six tries, which have all come in his past three games. His first two games were off the bench, and he has started at fullback the past two weeks. His late-season involvement in the team comes after initial fears he wouldn’t play any under-20s rugby league in 2015 following a serious sinus infection. Cowboys coaches are pleased with Ponga’s development and will continue to support his progression through the under-20s pathway.

Danger Warriors players for the young Cowboys to watch out for on Saturday include centre Semisi Tyrell and winger Paul Ulberg who were key players in the side’s tough 36-28 loss to competition leader Penrith last start.

The Cowboys will be without inspirational leader and hooker Andrew Neilmoeller, who broke his arm in the win over South Sydney. Neimoeller was stand-in captain over the past several weeks while regular skipper Kieran Quabba was out with a broken scapula. Quabba returns this week and a captain-for-captain swap. Powerful hooker Brandon Smith will take Neilmoeller’s spot in the No.9 jersey while Quabba will slot into the second row after player at lock and hooker at stages this year.

Aside from being the runaway leader in the try-scoring stakes, Mosby leads the NYC in metres, racking up 3194 running metres, or 160m a game over 20 games. He also has 32 line breaks this year, the most in the competition.

Cowboys halfback Cooper Bambling is ranked second in the NYC for line-break assists with 24.

The young Cowboys will be thrilled with teammate Coen Hess’s promotion to the National Rugby League this weekend. Hess, a backrower, will be the 256th player to don Cowboys’ colours in the NRL.  

COACH TODD PAYTEN: “This match will be a great barometer of where we’re at in this competition.”