The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys will fight for their National Youth Competition survival tonight when they host an in-form West Tigers outfit in an elimination final at 1300SMILES Stadium.
The young Cowboys were left heart-broken in Brisbane last Friday when the St George Illawarra Dragons snatched the game in golden-point extra-time after drawing level in the final seconds.
While the Dragons got a saloon passage to the preliminary final, the Cowboys will have to get to the grand final the long way, and that starts with victory against the Tigers tonight.
Big winners (54-24) over Parramatta in Week 1 of the finals, the Tigers will hold no fear coming to Townsville, and won the last match between the sides, a 36-12 result in Sydney in Round 22.
Coach Aaron Payne has been forced into a reshuffle with Kalyn Ponga to make his National Rugby League debut when the Cowboys take on the Broncos later tonight.
Ponga’s absence means Nathan Traill moves from the interchange bench to starting fullback with forward Emry Pere moving into the 17.
Pere will be joined on the interchange bench by Corey Horsburgh, Kaleb Fuimoano and Nick Lui Toso.
The game kicks off at 5.15pm, with the winner to advance to a preliminary final showdown with minor premiers Penrith Panthers.
COWBOYS NYC: 14 Nathan Traill, 2 Gideon Gela-Mosby, 3 Bacho Salam, 4 Enari Tuala, 5 Marcus Jensen, 6 Ty Carucci, 7 Cooper Bambling (c), 8 Darryn Schonig, 9 Brandon Smith, 10 Nicholas Brown, 11 Cody Maughan, 12 Ross Bella, 13 Tahanui Tutavake. Interchange: 15 Corey Horsburgh, 16, Kaleb Fuimaono, 17 Nick Lui Toso, 18 Emry Pere.