The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys successfully completed their World Club Challenge Australian preparation with an 18-16 win over Intrust Super Cup feeder team the Townsville Blackhawks in their trial match at Jack Manski Oval tonight.
Coming up against a determined and well-disciplined Blackhawks outfit featuring several ex-Cowboys, North Queensland fielded a near full-strength side the night before the team flies to England for their World Club Challenge match against Leeds next weekend.
With the exception of injured winger Antonio Winterstein, Cowboys head coach Paul Green fielded the team that won the 2015 National Rugby League Premiership trophy, with new recruit Shaun Hudson coming on to the wing.
Front-rower Sam Hoare and under-20s recruit Kyle Laybutt played the first half for the Blackhawks and the second half for the Cowboys in an entertaining match in which the Blackhawks at one stage led 10-6.
A heavy shower an hour prior to kick off made for greasy conditions and both sides were guilty of handling errors in what was a contest featuring plenty of willing defence.
The Cowboys struck first in the opening minutes as Justin O’Neill crossed, only for Johnathan Reuben and then one-time Cowboy Mosese Pangai to hit back in compelling fashion.
But the NRL side soon regained their composure and four-pointers to Michael Morgan and Gavin Cooper saw the Cowboys go into half time leading 18-10.
Green rung in the changes in the second half, resting co-captain Johnathan Thurston as Laybutt swapped jerseys and partnered Morgan in the halves.T
A defensive arm wrestle ensued and the half remained scoreless until Blackhawks back-rower Rhyse Martin scored in the last minute for the final scoreline.