Cowboy fill-ins impress enough to rate a recall
THE Cowboys expect to welcome back up to five of their backline stars for this Saturday's NRL trial match against the Titans in Mackay.
Five-eighth Johnathan Thurston (wrist), fullback Matt Bowen (shoulder), winger Ash Graham (ankle) and centres Brent Tate (shoulder) and Kane Linnett (elbow) are all likely to see game time in the Cowboys' final pre-season clash.
But even if they aren't available, Cowboys coach Neil Henry will have no hesitation throwing in the club's emerging backline talent after they helped earn a thrilling 28-22 trial win over the Dragons at Barlow Park on Saturday night.
The 12,000 spectators who filled the ground were treated to a grandstand finish when Tully's Joel Riethmuller scored the match-winning try with 90 seconds remaining.
Earlier in the game, the Dragons fought back from 14 points down and looked on track to snatch a remarkable comeback victory when Bronson Harrison gave the Wollongong side a 22-18 lead with 11 minutes to go.
But a 73rd minute try to under-20s player Javid Bowen, the nephew of Matt, levelled the scores before Riethmuller's late heroics sealed the victory.
Henry said the Cowboys did well to escape with the win.
"It was a pretty entertaining game really," he said.
"(It was) a bit scrappy in patches, but both squads were quite large. We were running 23 people on and the Dragons used 25.
"The ball control wasn't great at times, but it was pleasing to get the win.
"(We had) an inexperienced backline. Curtis Rona, Wayne Ulugia, Kalifa (Faifai Loa) those guys out there did a good job too."
Another player who impressed was hooker Scott Moore. The English recruit started the game alongside a full-strength Cowboys pack and played a key role in his side's opening two tries.
Halfback Michael Morgan did his chances of retaining the Cowboys No. 7 jersey for round one no harm, while Robert Lui had some encouraging touches after starting at five-eighth in the absence of Thurston.
Cowboys co-captain Matt Scott, who re-signed with the club until 2017 last week, said his side played well in patches.
"I thought we started the game really well," he said.
"The starting pack was really good. We put two early tries on them but I thought our completion rate dropped off a lot in the back end of the first half and second half.
"So there's a little bit to work on, but overall we were pretty happy with the performance."
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