The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Under-20s are within sight of the top three in the National Youth Competition as they prepare to take on second-placed Penrith this weekend.
The fourth-placed Cowboys (28 points on 12 wins and eight losses) are shooting for a fourth straight win when they visit Pepper Stadium on Saturday in a twilight fixture against the perennial NYC heavyweights, who are on 32 competition points from 13 wins, five losses and two draws.
Aaron Payne’s young team have been in scintillating attacking form the past three rounds, racking up 154 points in wins over the Warriors, Roosters and Storm while conceding just 46.
“We’re playing well but there’s always things to work on,” Payne said.
“Even though we notched a big win over the Storm last weekend, it was far from our best performance on the year so we’re not even close to getting complacent.”
Payne will go with a largely unchanged team for the match, the second-year mentor adopting an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach to his team selection.
The only change at this stage could be backup hooker Kyle Paterson returning to the side after he was a late exclusion last start due to illness.
His late call-up replacement Sam Murphy played arguably the best game of his season and will be unlucky to miss out, but Payne has until an hour before kick off to settle on his final lineup.
Payne’s back five continue to fire with NRL contracted Kalyn Ponga on song at fullback, winger Michael Carroll and Murray Taulagi scoring plenty of tries and strike centres Kurt Wiltshire and Enari Tuala threatening with almost every touch.
And while the powerful Tuala has been devastating since his return from a broken jaw a few weeks ago, Wiltshire was sublime in last weekend’s 50-6 win over the Storm, the Rockhampton region product scoring a try and running for almost 300m.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 5.15pm.