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Under-20s push Pride to the limit by ANTONY STEWART
COACH Grant Bell left Cairns a satisfied man following the under-20 Cowboys' first competitive hit-out on Saturday night.
North Queensland went down 26-20 to Queensland Cup team the Northern Pride, overcoming a stilted preparation to come within a whisker of a draw.
After their originally scheduled match in Charters Towers was washed out on Friday night, the Cowboys quickly made alternate plans for the team to fly to the Far North.
With that in mind Bell said he was extremely happy with the efforts of his players.
"For our guys it was quite an experience and a good first trial as a unit," he said.
"We had our first training session with that side as a side (on Friday) night.
"I thought they came together really well for a side that weren't too familiar with each other."
The junior Cowboys put a fright into the Pride, who will play a senior Cowboys team on Saturday night.
North Queensland led 10-8 at halftime and then 20-8 eight minutes into the second half.
However four tries in 16 minutes for the Pride - the NRL Cowboys' feeder team - turned the game on its head.
Bell said the experience within the teams was the difference.
"For a few of the guys, they'd never played an 80-minute game of footy before, so there's some learning coming out of that - there's also perhaps a bit of learning that you`ve got to keep yourself in the game," he said.
"There's no doubt that the experienced players in the Pride played a little better at the back end of the game and possession didn't roll our way in the last quarter.
"It was a tough game to play in the last quarter and without the ball I thought they defended well, they stood up well."
The Cowboys had a chance to snatch a draw in the dying seconds when they chased through a kick into the in-goal, but the Pride scrambled and knocked the ball out of play.
Bell said both teams had cause for optimism following their first-up showings.
"Both sides had some players that really stood up and showed the coaches that they're really ready for the next level of footy," he said.
Cowboys front-rower Scott Idec suffered a grade-one medial tear to his knee and will miss at least one week.
The other half of the under-20 Cowboys' 40-man squad had been scheduled to play in Ayr on Saturday but that match was also a victim of the weather.
An effort to relocate the game to James Cook University yesterday also ended unsuccessfully due to the rain.
PRIDE 26 (H Murgha 2, C Bird, B Laity, E Warria, D Campbell tries; S Sheppard goal) d COWBOYS 20 (B Payne, R Griffiths 2, B Boor tries; C Riesen 2 goals).
Source: Many thanks to the good people at the Townsville Bulletin http://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au Email: [email protected]