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Youthful Cowboys score NRL win over Titans

NZN 25/03/2017 Laine Clark

The class of 2017 graduated with flying colours for North Queensland as the injury-hit Cowboys held out the Gold Coast Titans for a 32-26 win in Saturday night's NRL clash.

Backrower Coen Hess - just 20 - showed why he has already been earmarked for a Queensland State of Origin spot after just five NRL starts, crossing for two barnstorming tries.

Fullback Kalyn Ponga - only 18 - helped co-captain Johnathan Thurston spark a depleted Cowboys backline, crossing for his maiden NRL try in front of a crowd of 17,647 at Cbus Super Stadium.

For good measure, Ponga had a hand in setting up a first half four-pointer for 19-year-old debutant Gideon Gela-Mosby.

Then again, North Queensland needed something special after Test centre Justin O'Neill was this week added to a Cowboys injury list that already features prop Matt Scott, fullback Lachlan Coote and winger Antonio Winterstein.

They were also without reigning Dally M winner Jason Taumalolo, who is serving a suspension for a shoulder charge.

However, North Queensland still bounced back from last round's flat 30-8 loss to Manly with a stirring display against an equally injury-riddled Titans outfit.

In just his 12th NRL game, Hess was unstoppable near the line, muscling his way over for tries in the 61st and 71st minutes to put the result beyond doubt.

The 110kg, 190cm Hess made seven tackle busts.

Ponga ran for 110 metres and made two line breaks.

It marked North Queensland's first win on the Gold Coast since Round 20, 2011.

They may have worn out their welcome with the win but North Queensland aren't leaving any time soon.

The Cowboys weathered a Titans storm but an even bigger one awaits in hometown Townsville - Tropical Cyclone Debbie.

The Cowboys were told before kickoff that all flights to Townsville on Sunday had been cancelled with the cyclone expected to cross the Queensland coast near Townsville on Tuesday morning as a Category Four system with winds of up to 260kph.

North Queensland got off to their whirlwind start on Saturday night, jumping to a 10-0 lead by the 19th minute and a 20-12 buffer by halftime.

By the 15th minute the Cowboys had enjoyed 78 per cent possession and completed all 12 of their sets.

North Queensland regained all the momentum by the break after Ponga set up Gela-Mosby (34th minute) then ran off Thurston to help himself to one of his own in the 38th.

Alarm bells were ringing for Dale Copley when a knock-on sabotaged his first run for the Titans but the centre redeemed himself with a try-scoring double on Gold Coast debut.

Titans co-captain Ryan James may attract the match review committee's scrutiny for his 18th minute hit on Cowboys prop Patrick Kaufusi.

Titans forward Agnatius Paasi suffered a suspected right shoulder injury.

Cowboys coach Paul Green still hoped they would fly home on Sunday.

"We will play it by ear. Hopefully we get back home safely," Green said.

He als described their win as "scrappy" and was fuming over Gold Coast's fast finish, notching two tries in the final five minutes.

"I was really disappointed with the Gold Coast scoring the last two tries which blew out the scoreline," he said.

"I think 32-16 would have been a fitting scoreline."

Titans coach Neil Henry rued another slow start - and the bulldozing Hess.

"There are no excuses for our goal-line defence," Henry said.

"We have to make sure we stop the ball getting over the line.

"If we did that to Coen Hess the score might have been a bit different."

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