Large patches of error-free footy and some classy individual touches were the standout features of the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys’ 28-12 NYC win over the Canberra Raiders at 1300SMILES Stadium tonight.
In a battle of two 2016 top-eight teams to open a new season, the Cowboys skipped out to a 10-0 lead, consolidated 16-6 at half-time and sealed the win with second-half tries to hard-working forwards Corey Horsburgh and Kaleb Fuimaono.
In fact Horsburgh – with his distinctive mop of red hair and no-nonsense attitude to physical contact – was a standout for the Cowboys, the youngster scoring a try in each half, his first showcasing neat footwork at the last line of defence.
Aaron Payne’s young charges couldn’t have asked for a better start as winger Nathan Traill still had plenty to do to cross in the corner after the Cowboys backline showed nice shape and quick hands to the left.
Horsburgh saluted for his first minutes later after latching on to a great pass from a falling Calum Gahan, and a 10-0 lead after as many minutes portended a cricket score.
But the Raiders – after failing to get into Cowboys territory for the first 25 minutes – responded strongly as hooker Jarred Tuite spilt the defence to race 20m for a try, the conversion narrowing the gap to 10-6.
Dangerous Cowboys centre Enari Tuala hit back with a stunning solo effort of his own, the talented teen showing strength, then speed and evasion, to race 50m for a fine try.
Jake Clifford converted for a 16-6 lead at the break.
The second half was more of an arm wrestle,with Canberra consistently gifting their hosts possession on the first tackle.
Horsburgh was soon the willing beneficiary of another smart ball from a hooker – this time back-up rake Duarne Dempsey – the gritty No.13 punctuating the try with a marvellous swan dive.
Raiders back-rower and captain Kalani Going got one back in the 68th minute, but Fuimaono sealed the win late with a strong effort close to the line.
The game marked NYC debuts for halfback Clifford and interchange forwards Jayden Stephens and Connor Luhan, while Payne would have been pleased with the application and discipline in round 1.
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys NYC 28 (Corey Horsbugh 2, Nathan Traill, Enari Tuala, Kaleb Fuimaono tries; Jake Clifford 2 goals) def Canberra Raiders NYC 12 (Jarred Tuite, Kalani Going tries; Sato Ketia-Opo goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium.