NYC Cowboys book preliminary final berth
The Cowboys under-20s have bounced back from last week's heartbreaking last-minute loss to St George-Illawarra, defeating the Wests Tigers 32-16 to advance to the Holden Cup preliminary finals against minor premiers the Penrith Panthers.
The attack was ablaze while the defence in a malaise for both teams in a typical under-20s run-and-gun affair, with impressive Cowboys right centre Enari Tuala bagging a first-half hat-trick.
Tuala crossed for the game's first two tries, while slick Tigers winger Obed Karwhin stepped inside to cut the deficit to four after the first three conversions were missed.
Big man Jakob Giles powered over to even the scores at 8-8 before Romen Ioelu's conversion put the visitors two points ahead.
Cowboys lock forward Tahanui Tutavake gave the home side their settler with a slam dunk finish after powering through contact near the sticks, and Tuala made it three in the shadows of half-time.
The Tigers struck first in the second half through hot-stepping halfback Daniel Roberts, who straightened off the left foot and sliced straight through the defence, but neither side could keep hold of the ball long enough to score points as the score read 20-16 for what seemed like an age.
Kalyn Ponga's replacement at the back, Nathan Traill, had a horror 10 minutes under the high ball to give the Tigers a sniff of the lead, but after a failed captain's challenge was taken on potentially Karhwhin's second, the Cowboys escaped still holding a lead.
Just like the top-grade side, the Cowboys pulled away in the end, scoring the final two tries of the night through a sweeping right-side shift ending in the hands of speedster Gideon Gela-Mosby and a 60-metre run from second-rower Ross Bella following a hectic sequence in which Tigers fullback Luke Sharpe broke the line and dished inside to Daniel Peck who threw the 'Hail Mary' ball out the back right into the hands of Bella, who turned around, brushed defenders and ran the score next to the posts.
The Cowboys will play Penrith at either AAMI Park or Allianz Stadium next week.
NYC North Queensland Cowboys 32 (Enari Tuala 3, Tahanui Tutavake, Gideon Gela-Mosby, Ross Bella tries; Cooper Bambling 4 goals) defeated NYC Wests Tigers 16 (Obed Karwhin, Jakob Giles, Daniel Roberts tries; Romen Ioelu 2 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Half-time: Cowboys 20-10.