Aaron Payne’s new-found confidence in his Cowboys Under-20s team was born, not out of the actual scoreline in their big Round 7 win over the Dragons, but out of the manner in which the side prevailed.
The young North Queensland Toyota Cowboys jumped into second place on the National Youth Competition ladder with the 40-6 win over the previously high-flying Dragons, the team that bundled them out of the 2016 premiership race.
After trailing 6-4 early, Payne’s young charges raced in six more unanswered tries to clinch their fifth win from six games, with the team having a game in hand due to their Round 4 clash against the Titans being postponed.
Coach Payne – in his second year at the helm – said the win against quality opposition was the side’s “most polished performance this year”, the former Cowboys hooker praising his players for putting together 80 minutes of quality rugby league.
“Prior to the Dragons game, we have failed all year in being able to perform at a consistently high level across the entire match,” Payne said.
“So that was the most pleasing thing – we upheld our trademarks, and as a coach, that gives you tremendous confidence moving forward to the next challenge.”
Payne said his players had benefitted from a recent session with Townsville-based rugby league official Wyatt Raymond, who talked the young players through some interpretations and language used by refs.
“The boys got a lot out of that session” Payne said. “The week before (in the loss to the Tigers), we gave away eight yardage penalties – allowing the opposition cheap metres – while against the Dragons, we gave away none.
“We built pressure, and at this level – young men playing footy – if you can do that effectively, you’ll win every game.”
While pleased to have his team playing well, Payne said the side quickly turned their focus to the eighth-placed (four wins, three losses) Knights, who the Cowboys mentor described as a “hard-working team who dig in for each other”.
But the Cowboys will be missing lock Corey Horsburgh, prop Emry Pere and interchange forward Connor Luhan, the trio stood down for the second time this year after failing to meet agreed-upon team standards of behaviour.
Mitch Dunn will lead a slightly revamped team out on to 1300SMILES Stadium, with Jack Glossop starting at lock, Solomon Vasuvulagi in the front row, with a new-look interchange bench comprising Duarne Dempsey, Sam Murphy, Peter Hola and Jack Lote.
Saturday’s Round 8 game kicks off at 2.50pm.
ROUND 4 RESCHEDULE: The rescheduled date for the Cowboys’ postponed Round 4 NYC game against the Gold Coast Titans has been confirmed – the Titans will host the Cowboys on Saturday 6 May at Ned Byrne Oval, Cudgen, from 2.30pm.