Photo: Robb Cox © NRL Photos

The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys under-20s have dropped to third on the National Youth Competition ladder after a heavy defeat to top-two rivals Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium today.

With the winner of the clash cementing outright second place just three weeks out from the finals, the young Cowboys desperately needed a reversal of form following a loss to the lower-ranked Tigers last weekend.

But a fired-up Roosters outfit turned a narrow 18-16 half-time lead into a runaway 42-24 victory, the  seven-tries-to-five win featuring a perfect seven-from-seven goals from five-eighth Jackson Hastings.

The young Cowboys scored some enterprising tries, but ultimately it was the visitors’ defence that let them down, with coach Aaron Payne left lamenting several soft Roosters tries, including Roosters lock Nat Butcher's double.

The Cowboys – who have 13 wins, seven losses and a draw for 31 points – must now regroup ahead of next Saturday's meeting with the enigmatic Warriors at 1300SMILES Stadium.

SYDNEY ROOSTERS 42 (Nat Butcher 2, Bernard Lewis, Kiah Cooper, Jared Anderson, Grant Garvey, Sukamanu Raki tries; Jackson Hasting 7 goals) def NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS 24 (Ty Carucci, Cody Maughan, Enari Tuala, Tahanui Tutavake, Nathan Traill tries; Carucci 2 goals) at Allianz Stadium.