Young guns on show as Cowboys down Souths

Troy Whittaker |

The stars were confined to the sidelines, but the Cairns locals were still treated to an entertaining NRL trial as North Queensland overpowered South Sydney 24-12 on Saturday night

An element of intrigue was taken away with rookie Rabbitohs coach Jason Demetriou withdrawing young halfback Lachlan Ilias, fullback Blake Taaffe and recruit Siliva Havili.

Ilias, earmarked as the replacement for now-Brisbane general Adam Reynolds, and Taaffe, who is again set to deputise for the suspended Latrell Mitchell in the first two rounds, are expected to trial in the Charity Shield.

Only a handful of first graders featured in the Barlow Park clash with both teams opting to put the limelight on their up-and-coming and feeder players.

Connelly Lemuelu showed potential as a full-time Cowboys second-rower having made the transition from centre, where he’s played all but one of his 20 NRL matches.

Souths grand final winger Jaxson Paulo started at centre, perhaps an indication that Demetriou is looking at the 22-year-old to shift in-field and plug the hole left by the departed Dane Gagai.

Shaq Mitchell continued his push for an NRL contract, the front-rower featuring in the Rabbitohs’ run-on team and carrying the ball with vigour after representing the Indigenous All Stars last weekend.

NRL journeyman Brendan Elliot made his North Queensland debut at centre, tallying six runs for 51 metres in his first-half stint, while prop Griffin Neame was a standout.

Neame, who played three NRL matches last season, produced a highlight with a jolting ball-and-all hit on Rabbitohs forward Isaiah Vailalo to force the ball free.

It was a key play with the Cowboys scoring shortly afterwards through Jordan Lipp, who touched down after hooker Jayden Hodges’ grubber kick nutmegged Jack Campagnolo, to take a 12-6 half-time lead.

It had taken just three minutes for the opening points with North Queensland pivot Jake Bourke dummying his way to the chalk before Souths hit back through winger Zane Bijorac.

Bijorac again found himself in open space after the break, this time passing inside to lay on a try for five-eighth Campagnolo, a former Northern Pride player.

Andre Niko put the Cowboys back in front in the 53rd minute, partially losing his shorts as he dived over courtesy of fullback Tomas Chester’s lead-up work.

Rabbitohs youngster Tallis Duncan was sin-binned in the 62nd minute for a late hit on Bourke. Zac Laybutt crossed for North Queensland in the next set.

A couple of sons of guns featured in the trial including North Queensland lock Riley Price, son of former Australia prop Steve Price, and Ross Bella, son of fellow Kangaroos front-rower Martin Bella.