The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys National Youth Competition team are one victory away from claiming a maiden minor premiership with a scrappy 34-14 win over the Melbourne Storm in tough conditions at AAMI Park.
As the rain swept across the venue in the first half, the Cowboys’ appetite for scoring could not be dampened as they swept to a 13th straight win, their 19th victory of the season. The win advanced the side to 43 competition points and victory over the 12th-placed Gold Coast Titans next weekend will give the side the minor premiership.
In worsening conditions, both sides were guilty of dropping plenty of early ball, but it was the visitors who made the most of their opportunities early, racing to a 16-0 lead in as many minutes thanks to four-pointers to prop Viliame Kikau, five-eighth Kyle Laybutt and centre Conor Carey.
Kikau and Laybutt’s tries were relatively soft, close-to-the line affairs, but Carey’s effort on the back of slick passing and a deft final kick from halfback Cooper Bambling.
Kikau’s short-range effort was his 20th for the year in the NYC as he moved to outright fourth on the competition’s try-scoring list.
NYC leading try-scorer Gideon Mosby slid over in the corner in the 33rd minute while fullback Kalyn Ponga – thanks to a great Akeripa Tia Kilifi offload – saluted out wide two minutes later to make it 24-0 at half-time.
The second half was a different story as the Cowboys squandered possession and the Storm ran in three unanswered tried to narrow the margin to 24-14 with 12 minutes remaining.
But a rampaging Temone Power roared through a gap to make it 30-12 and maintain the young Cowboys’ momentum with one week of the regular season remaining. A final try to Carey – his second – on the final bell pushed the score out.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 34 (Conor Carey 2, Viliame Kikau, Kyle Laybutt, Gideon Mosby, Kalyn Ponga, Temone Power tries; Laybutt 3 goals) def MELBOURNE STORM 14 (scorers unavailable) at AAMI Park.