North Queensland centre Javid Bowen has missed the second half with concussion in the Cowboys’ 11-10 NRL trial win against the Sydney Roosters in Mackay.
Bowen wasn’t risked for Saturday night’s second stanza after suffering a head knock, but it did not stop the Cowboys grabbing a thrilling win, sealed by five-eighth Kyle Laybutt’s final-minute field goal.
The Cowboys held onto a 6-0 lead after a scrappy first half thanks to a Blake Leary try.
However, a young Roosters outfit hit back and, when Sitili Tupouniua crashed over in the 70th minute, the tri-colours led 10-6.
Centre Enari Tuala’s four-pointer levelled the scores before Laybutt’s late heroics sealed a Cowboys victory.
North Queensland coach Paul Green wanted to use the trial to run the rule over a young forward pack and recruit, former Melbourne utility Ben Hampton.
Green said a utility bench spot and his forward pack line-up were “up for grabs” ahead of their season opener on March 4 against Canberra.
The Cowboys’ coach had been given much to mull over thanks to the off-season departure of Test prop James Tamou and ex-Queensland forward Ben Hannant (retirement).
Youngsters Coen Hess, Patrick Kaufusi, Braden Uele, train-and-trialist Will Budgen and new faces Shane Wright and Corey Jensen were all vying for NRL round-one nods.
Co-captain Matt Scott, reigning Dally M Medal co-winner Jason Taumalalo and fellow veteran prop Scott Bolton spearheaded the Cowboys’ pack in Mackay.
Hampton and PNG international Ray Thompson were in the running to fill the Cowboys’ utility bench role vacated by Rory Kostjasyn (Newcastle).
North Queensland also play the Wests Tigers on February 17 in another trial at Campbelltown.
The Roosters’ Saturday trial squad included recruits Michael Gordon and Luke Keary and a handful of first-grade regulars such as Dylan Napa and Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
The Roosters’ next trial is on February 18 against Manly at Central Coast Stadium.