The South Sydney Rabbitohs’ under 20s Holden Cup team mounted a late comeback, but it was not enough to knock over the North Queensland Cowboys in Townsville this afternoon (Thursday), going down 44 points to 30.
The Rabbitohs trailed 44-8 after 67 minutes, and went on to score four tries in the final 12 minutes, but it wasn’t to be for the young men in red and green at the end of the 80 minutes.
The Cowboys were the first to score through fullback Kalyn Ponga, who made the most of a repeat set to slice through the Rabbitohs’ defence to score to the left of the uprights. Five-eighth Kyle Laybutt converted to give the home side an early six-nil lead.
Some lazy Rabbitohs’ defence led to the next Cowboys try, with halfback Cooper Bambling beating five South Sydney defenders to score under the posts. Laybutt converted to give the home side a 12-point advantage.
The Rabbitohs struck back in the 17th minute when young centre Siosifa Talakai scored on the right hand side. On the back of a penalty the Rabbitohs made their way up field, and some movement of the ball through the back line had the Cowboys’ defence stretched. The ball went right to fullback Jordie Hedges who put on a deft short ball for Talakai to race over, reducing the deficit to eight points.
It would only take a few minutes for the home side to retaliate, with wingers Scott Schulte and Gideon Mosby scoring tries in the 22nd and 25th minutes. Laybutt missed the conversions, leaving the score line at 20-4.
Mosby would cross for his double in the 29th minute, a long ball from Ponga catching the Rabbitohs short in defence out wide. Bambling missed the conversion, taking the score to 24-4 in favour of the Cowboys.
Bambling crossed for his second in the 33rd minute when a gap opened up close to the line due a Rabbitohs’ defender slipping over. He converted his own try, taking the score line to 30-4.
The Rabbitohs scored their second try of the afternoon in the 39th minute of play, when some good passing plays found Irae Simone on the right wing. Simone trampled over one defender to get the ball down in the corner. Hedges missed the conversion, taking the half time score line to Cowboys 30 – Rabbitohs 8.
The Rabbitohs could not have started the second half more poorly, with a knock on from the kick off leading to a try to Laybutt in the 41st minute. Bambling converted to extend the lead to 28 points.
The Cowboys were at it again shortly after, with fullback Ponga scoring his second try for the match adjacent to the uprights in the 47th minute, and his third three minutes later in the same spot beside the posts. Bambling missed both conversions, leaving the score at 44-8.
The Rabbitohs started to muscle up in defence which started to bring some errors from the Cowboys, halting the run of points from the North Queenslanders.
The new aggressive style paid off for Souths, with Siosifa Talakai crossing for his second try of the afternoon in the 68th minute of play. The Rabbitohs rolled their way up field, courtesy of strong runs and offloads by prop Clayton Williams. The ball was then swung to the right, with Talakai running a fantastic line to break the defence and run around underneath the posts. Hedges converted to take the score line to 44-14 in favour of the Cowboys.
South Sydney were not done with yet, with Eli Levido laying on a perfect short ball for Jacob McCudden, who raced 30 metres to score in the 75th minute of play. Hedges converted, with the score now reading 44-20 in favour of North Queensland.
Two minutes later the Rabbitohs were over again, this time it was Brock Gray getting over the stripe after a great lead up run and offload by centre Tevita Cottrell. Hedges converted, reducing the deficit to 18 points.
Souths would score again in the final minute of play when Cottrell charged straight and hard, bumping off defenders to score out wide on the left. Hedges missed the conversion, leaving the final score line to read Cowboys 44 – Rabbitohs 30.
If the Rabbitohs had turned in an 80-minute performance that reflected the final 15 minutes of the match, the final result could have been much different, providing positive signs for the team’s next assignment against the Bulldogs at home at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
North Queensland Cowboys 44 (Kalyn Ponga 3, Cooper Bambling 2, Gideon Mosby 2, Kyle Laybutt, Scott Schulte tries; Kyle Laybutt 2, Cooper Bambling 2 goals)
South Sydney Rabbitohs 30 (Siosifa Talakai 2, Irae Simone, Jacob McCudden, Brock Gray, Tevita Cottrell tries; Jordie Hedges 3 goals)