While the scoreline was tight, the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys under-20s team still ‘steamed’ their way to a 28-20 victory against Manly in greenhouse conditions in Townsville tonight.
Heavy day-time showers combined with low cloud and high late-afternoon temperatures to create the sauna-like atmosphere at 1300SMILES Stadium as Aaron Payne’s young charges ground out a tough win in trying conditions.
The lead changed several times during the match as ball security in the slippery conditions was paramount.
Teams that found themselves down the opposition’s end for sustained periods usually scored.
Nursing a slender 12-10 half-time lead, tries to back-rowers Jack Glossop and Hiale Roycroft were countered by four-pointers to Manly centre Tevita Funa and fullback Luke Polselli, and the Cowboys needed to come out in the second with purpose.
But a soft-ish try to Sea Eagles halfback Manase Fainu in the 43rd minute saw the visitors edge ahead as sides began to tire in the oppressive conditions.
Enter strong-running Cowboys centre Enari Tuala, who crossed twice in three minutes courtesy of some strong hole running and suddenly the Cowboys were ahead 20-12.
Wily halfback Jake Clifford extended the lead to eight with a penalty before the Cowboys almost immediately lapsed, with a lack of urgency leading to Manly lock Jesse Martin racing over with seven minutes to spare.
The Cowboys defended grimly for a couple of sets, and Manly were pressing to the left before an error allowed Tuala to swoop on a loose ball and sprint 90m to seal the match, the young back having now scored four tries in three games in season 2017.
North Queensland Toyota Cowboys NYC 28 (Enari Tuala 3, Jack Glossop, Hiale Roycroft tries; Jake Clifford 3 goals, pen. goal) def Manly Sea Eagles NYC 20 (Tevita Funa, Luke Polselli, Manase Fainu, Jesse Martin tries; Trey Brown, Bilal Maarbani goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium.