The new North Queensland Cowboys forwards rotation passed a trial-by-fire in Townsville on Saturday night against a Canberra Raiders team that played aggressive defensive football, and had several options in attack.
The Cowboys beat the Raiders 20-16 after a freakish try in golden point, with coach Paul Green and second rower Gavin Cooper praising the performance of the young players.
Ben Hampton, Coen Hess and Patrick Kaufusi substituted onto the field late in the first half and throughout the second, with Hess scoring a try. Speaking to the media after the game, Green seemed happy to have the Telstra Premiership win as a starting point.
"I was pretty happy with how they went there, again I think we can be better. It was probably a pretty typical Round 1 performance, good without being great," Green said.
"We probably lost a few of those tight games last year so I'm really happy with the fact that we hung in there and got the result in the end."
Cooper was pleased that the rotation set them up well for the victory at the back-end of the game.
"I think we only used two interchanges in the first half. It was good come second half we had a few interchanges up our sleeve so we could have our big guys nice and fresh in the important parts of the game," he said.
Cooper was equally happy with the performance of the young players, praising the way they rose to the occasion.
"They stepped up, especially in defence… Benny Hampton too actually, he came on and he really tightened us up around the middle," Cooper said.
"[Kaufusi] will be good for the run, Hess will be good for the run - he barged over. He just showed how big of a body he is. He doesn't have to do too much with the ball… he's just a massive frame and he's hard to stop.
The Cowboys veteran was careful with his praise, positive that that there was more to improve on.
"Everyone played their role tonight. It wasn't perfect, it was far from it actually, but a lot of positives to take out of it."
As good as the Cowboys bench forwards were against the Raiders, their starting forwards were even better. Jason Taumalolo made 290 metres, while Matt Scott overcame a leg infection on Tuesday to make 199.