A spirited second-half rally came as cold comfort to the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Under-20s team as hosts Canberra Raiders triumphed 36-14 in their Round 17 National Youth Competition match at a frosty GIO Stadium today.
Trailing 30-6 midway through the second half following a miserable 60 minutes where they conceded five tries and lost two players to concussion, the young Cowboys put on a quick brace of tries to have a sniff with time still on the clock.
It wasn’t to be, though, the home side steadying to score the final try of the match for their seventh win of the season.
The Cowboys got off to a dream start in cold, clear conditions after the Raiders spilled the ball in the opening set.
Taking advantage of a string of good ball, the Cowboys attacked down the right edge for immediate dividends with prolific winger Michael Carroll the grateful beneficiary of some slick hands in the backline to score out wide.
That was to be the only joy for the Cowboys in the first half as winger Marshall Hudson got knocked out in his first carry of the football. The youngster would not return for the rest of the match as coach Aaron Payne was forced into some early changes. Nathan Traill was moved on to the wing and late inclusion Jacob Bourke came off the bench and straight into the centres.
Taking advantage of the Cowboys’ early misfortunes, the Raiders quickly reversed the momentum by making their opponents pay dearly for some ill discipline and errors. Three tries in the space of 20 minutes completely turned the contest in the first half as the home side forwards completely dominated their visiting opposites.
An 18-4 scoreline into halftime loomed until the Raiders added a fourth try in the 38th minute as fullback Harry Van Dartel raced away. And with sharpshooting centre Andre Niko on song with the boot, the Raiders were getting maximum return on their tries and led 24-4 at halftime.
The home side increased the margin to 30-4 midway through the second half after an even 20-minute period, and the writing looked on the wall for Payne’s men. But a mini-comeback with a quarter of an hour remaining – as centre Kurt Wiltshire and Kalyn Ponga crossed within minutes of each other – threatened to turn the match on its head.
A third straight try beckoned as Ponga put in a neat kick for a flying Traill, only for the bounce to be an unfavourable one and the Cowboys’ hopes of a miracle were dashed.
The Raiders scored their sixth try of the match in the final minutes to put an exclamation on a polished performance and consign the Cowboys to a seventh defeat of the season.
CANBERRA RAIDERS NYC 36 (Kalani Going, Daniel Keir, Zac Masters, Harry Van Dartel, Erin Clark, Komiti Tuilagi tries; Andre Niko 5, Van Dartel goals) def NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS NYC 14 (Michael Carroll, Kurt Wiltshire, Kalyn Ponga tries; Jake Clifford goal) at GIO Stadium.