Mackay's Kalyn Pona is back on home turf, celebrating the North Queensland Cowboys win over the Sydney Roosters in their pre-season trial match at BB Print Stadium, Mackay on Saturday.
Mackay's Kalyn Pona is back on home turf, celebrating the North Queensland Cowboys win over the Sydney Roosters in their pre-season trial match at BB Print Stadium, Mackay on Saturday. Madolyn Peters

NRL: Coote watches Ponga "nipping at my toes”

UPDATE: The North Queensland Cowboys managed to hold on for a thrilling one-point win over Sydney Roosters in their pre-season trial match.

Cowboys' Kyle Laybutt scored a field goal with a minute and a half left of the game.

"That was good from Kyle, he was actually playing left centre at the time so for him to have the awareness to come on and make the play and kick the field goal was good to see," Cowboys' coach Paul Green said.

"It's only a trial but you still have to practice those winning contests."

Patrick Kaufusi and Sam Hoare also made an impression on the game as well has Ethan Lowe who played his first game back from injury.

"Particularly for a guy who is coming back from major surgery, I thought in that first half he was probably our best player on the paddock," Green said.

NYC player Enari Tuala played 30 minutes against the QCCS Mackay Cutters and got the call up into the Cowboys after Javid Bowen came off with concussion early in the first half.

"That's what I wanted to see out of this trial, some of those young guys putting their hands up," Green said.

Cowboys' recruit Ben Hampton is adjusting to the new team well but there is still more work to be done.

"He's still coming to terms with playing in a new club with a new team so he probably got a little bit lost there at some stage in that first half in particular," Green said.

"But I love the way he competed, he was always in the game which is, again, what I wanted to see."

Green said young forward Braden Uele is in the mix for a starting spot next weekend in their final trial against West Tigers in Sydney.


Mackay's Kalyn Ponga starred in the second half after moving into his preferred fullback role.

He replaced Lachlan Coote, who was also one of the Cowboys' best players.

"Coote is the incumbent so it's his spot to lose," Green said.

"He didn't do his chances any harm tonight I thought he did very good."

Coote was also impressed with Ponga's performance himself, saying Ponga and Gideon Gela-Mosby were two of the fastest people on the field.

"He (Ponga) looked sharp out there on the second phase play, he held his own on the kick returns as well," Coote said.

"I'm sure he'll be nipping at my toes this year.

"He could probably be giving me tips in attack," Coote laughed when asked what pointers he could give the young player.

As for Gela-Mosby, Coote said he has definitely furthered his chances for a starting spot in their final trial next week against Wests Tigers in Sydney.

"He's only a little fella but damn he's strong," Coote said.

"The way he just pokes his nose through there with his speed helping him do that."

Coote said while it was a good win, the team are a little bit disappointed in their attacked and gave special mention to Laybutt's game-saving try.

"He was good in the halves, stepping up there when times were tough and slotted that field goal at the end," he said.

He said a lot of the forward impressed, including Hampton.

"It was hard out there, they're learning the new game plan, especially Benny Hampton coming from Melbourne it would be totally different," he said.

He is looking forward to having the full squad back for their final trial game next weekend in Sydney.

The Mackay crowd also lived up to expectations.


"They were nice and vocal, you could hear them out there, it's good to come down here, we need to come down here more often I think," Coote said.

Cowboys' co-captain Matt Scott agreed.

"It's always good to play a trial down here with fantastic support from the locals," he said.

"The game was probably a typical first trial match, it was a little bit stop and start with a few errors."

The prop is glad to get some match fitness back have having only a three-week pre-season himself.

Again, Lowe's comeback performance did not go unnoticed.

"I thought he was nice and aggressive and he's got that in his nature so it's good to see a pretty serious neck surgery didn't take that out of his game," Scott said.

"It's good to see him come back from that sort of injury in that sort of form."

Scott said the team needs to focus on their execution leading into next weekend's game.

As a first hit-out of the season for both teams, Green said it was expected to be a little bit scrappy and it was a great even put on by Mackay and District Rugby League.

"We competed well I thought we defended pretty well," Green said.

"We were a little bit rusty in attack, we have changed a few things so that's going to take a little bit of time to get better at.

"A really good job done by the local league and the Cutters to put the event on, I think everyone will benefit from the game," he said.

"All in all it's probably what you wanted to get out of a trial."

He said it's been a great experience playing in front of a packed, BB Print Stadium.


Luke Keary made his debut for the Sydney Roosters in the Mackay trial match.

"It was good to see so many people here, I've never played here before so it was good to see all the young kids and families come out and the crowd was awesome," he said.

"Sydney is a proud club with a lot of tradition, it was an honour to put on the jersey for the first time and I really enjoyed the night.

The night was all about putting what they had learnt off the field on the field.

"And I felt we did that in defence... I was really proud of the boys," he said.

"We obviously brought a lot of the young guys up and had a few sneaky guys there play the first 40 minutes.

"It was good to watch the young boys there have a bit of fun in the second half."


UPDATE: The Cowboys have come out on top after a thrilling win over the Sydney Roosters at BB Print Stadium.

The Roosters scored the first try after the break but failed to convert.

Cowboys answered back with their own try but also failed to nab the two extra points.

With score 10-all with four minutes left of the game, the Cowboys needed to do something.

They were making it close to the try line but weren't reaping the rewards until Kyle Laybutt took the game into his own hands.

He dropped the footy onto his boot and scored the winning point.

The crowd went wild for the rest of the game.

The team circled the field after, thanking their vocal Mackay fans.

North Queensland Cowboys defeated Sydney Roosters 11-10.

Kyle Laybutt

UPDATE: The Cowboys snuck in a try before the break, giving them the lead going into the second half.


Blake Leary scored the try with four minutes to go in the first half.

Ponga is back on the park after half time.

North Queensland Cowboys lead 6-0.

INITIAL: NORTH Queensland Cowboys and Sydney Roosters have kicked off in front of a full BB Print Stadium.

Mackay's Kalyn Ponga started on the bench for the Cowboys but took to the field within the first 10 minutes of the game.


The Cowboys U20s started the night strong with a 22-point win over the QCCS Mackay Cutters.

Star recruit Jayden Hodges went down with a knee injury within 15 minutes of taking to the field.

It was his first game back for almost a year and a half due to a knee reconstruction.

Cutters coach' Steve Sheppard said it was his actually his good knee he injued and it wasn't looking good for Hodges but has his fingers crossed for him.

Cowboys u20s defeated QCCS Mackay Cutters 34-12.

More to come.

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