The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys 2015 National Youth Competition campaign is over following a heartbreaking 25-24 loss to the Sea Eagles Broncos in today’s preliminary final at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.

The loss came despite the Cowboys scoring four tries to three and holding a 16-14 halftime lead and means the Sea Eagles will play Penrith in next week’s NYC grand final.

First-half tries to centres Akeripa Tia Kilifi and Conor and winger Gideon Mosby laid the platform for the Cowboys’ early ascendancy, and the NQ lads led 16-14 at the break as Manly made crucial errors deep in their territory.

Gideon Mosby’s length-of-the-field effort came of a loose ball and was the NYC try-scoring record-holder’s 39th four-pointer of the year. That try got the Cowboys back level at 12-all after Manly’s two-try burst saw them lead 12-6 after trailing 6-0 early on the back of Tia Kilifi’s 7th minute try.

Tom Trbojevic scored Manly’s opener then set up winger Jesse Bogle for their second before Carey’s opportunistic effort gave the Cowboys the edge into the break despite Manly kicking a 39th-minute penalty.

The second half was a dog-fight with only two tries scored as Cowboys halfback Cooper Bambling and Bogle traded early tries to set it up for a barnstorming finish.

But the Sea Eagles won two crucial captain’s challenges and kicked 3 from for penalty goals and a go-ahead field goal in the final minutes to clinch the win. A failed Cowboys captain’s challenge in the final minute handed the Sea Eagles a fourth penalty, the attempt of which missed, but NQ failed to regain possession on the restart.

The final result was a bitter blow for NQ, who led the competition for much of the season, including stringing together 13 straight wins up to a round 26 loss to the Titans.

The team was heavily favoured to win its way through to a second NYC grand final in the eight-year history of the competition. The team was beaten 31-30 in the 2011 decider by the Warriors.

MANLY SEA EAGLES 25 (Jesse Bogle 2, Tom Trbojevic tries; Hugh Pratt 3 goals, 2 pen. goals; Nicho Hynes pen. goal, field goal) def NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 24 (Akeripa Tia Kilifi, Gideon Mosby, Conor Carey, Cooper Bambling tries; Kyle Laybutt 3 goals, pen. goal) at AAMI Park.