TULLY'S Joel Riethmuller sent the Cairns crowd into raptures on Saturday night when he scored the decisive try in the Cowboys' thrilling 28-22 victory over the Dragons in their NRL trial match at Barlow Park.
The interchange forward dived over close to the line after receiving a quick pass from dummy half to break a 22-all deadlock with 90 seconds remaining.
It was a fitting end to a game that featured multiple momentum shifts as both coaches made full use of their extended squads.
After trailing by as many as 14 points, the Dragons stormed into the contest late in the game and snatched the lead for the first time in the 69th minute when Bronson Harrison scored near the posts.
Young halfback Josh Drinkwater calmly added the extras to give the Wollongong side a 22-18 advantage and a sniff at a comeback victory.
But the Cowboys didn’t panic. Under-20s player Javid Bowen, the nephew of Cowboys fullback Matt, showed great hands to scoop up a ball from his toes and level the game with seven minutes left.
Kyle Feldt scuffed the conversion, but Riethmuller’s late heroics ensured the miss wasn’t costly.
Earlier in the game, the Cowboys opened scoring after 11 minutes when fullback Clint Greenshields backed up a sensational bust from hooker Scott Moore.
Halfback Michael Morgan converted for a 6-0 lead before the playmaker crossed himself near the end of the first quarter after Moore and Greenshields combined again to shred the Dragons up the middle.
The Dragons enjoyed better field position when play restarted but were denied by desperate Cowboys defence and some sloppy passing.
But the weight of possession eventually told, with Dragons winger Chase Stanley finding the tryline after soaring above his opponent to pluck a pin-point Jamie Soward kick out of the air.
Soward missed the conversion before the Cowboys scored their third four-pointer of the night through Jason Taumalolo.
The second-rower muscled over next to the sticks to set up a commanding 18-4 lead, but Dragons centre Matt Cooper crossed just before halftime to keep his side in touch.
Earlier in the night, the Northern Pride beat the Cowboys under-20s 20-18.
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Try time: Cowboy Clint Greenshileds goes over to score the first try of the game. Pic: Stewart Mclean.