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Cowboys overcome Raiders as Broncos claim Pre-Season Challenge title

A stirring second-half comeback saw the Cowboys run out 36-26 winners over the Raiders on Sunday, in a result which ensured the Broncos claimed the 2024 Pre-Season Challenge title. 

Trailing 14-8 at the break, North Queensland blew the Raiders away with three tries in six minutes early in the second half and then went on with the job to pick up their first win of the pre-season and end Canberra's hopes of claiming the title and $100,000 in prize money that comes with it. 

Veteran winger Kyle Feldt did much of the damage with a hat-trick that will do his hopes of returning to the NRL side on a full-time basis no harm, but there was one major negative to come out of it for the Cowboys as well with forward Coen Hess suffering a possible serious knee injury. 

Prop Thomas Mikaele, who is on a development deal with North Queensland for 2024, put in an eye-catching performance that included scoring twice. 

Kyle Feldt Try

Despite the loss Canberra may have got a step closer to confirming their five-eighth for Round 1 as Ethan Strange put in a strong showing that which saw him score a try and hold his own defensively, although the teenager will now be sweating on the outcome of a lifting tackle which saw him placed on report and sent to the sin bin midway through the second half. 

After Strange had got things going 11 minutes in, Xavier Savage accepted a gift try from Feldt when he spilled the ball metres from the line.

But with Strange unable to convert either try, the Cowboys halved the deficit with Feldt's try on 20 minutes, before Matthew Timoko got the better of Valentine Holmes for his side's third, which gave Canberra a 14-4 lead.

Matthew Timoko Try

Zac Laybutt's strike seven minutes from the break meant the sides went to the sheds with the hosts clinging to a 14-8 advantage. 

Two minutes into the second stanza it was all even after Murray Taulagi went 35 metres down the left flank following a Mikaele offload, before the prop got one for himself minutes later to stretch the lead. 

Feldt then grabbed his second before Nick Cotric got one back to restore hope, but only momentarily as Feldt ran in a third to reestablish a 10-point buffer. 

Adam Cook looked could have won it for the Raiders in the closing minutes after he scored a try, which came after Peter Hola battled over, and then broke the line with four to play and the gap just six, but he butchered the ensuing grubber and turned possession over.

In the end Mikaele's second four-pointer, which came via a monster carry that saw him fend off multiple defenders, put the result beyond doubt. 

Match Snapshot

  • After struggling to make it into the NRL side last season, wing Kyle Feldt made a statement with three tries and 11 carries. 
  • Cowboys veteran Coen Hess suffered a game-ending knee injury which the club couldn't rule out as being serious, with scans to confirm the extent during the week. 
  • Raiders halfback Ethan Strange was placed on report and sent to the sin bin for a tackle which placed Thomas Mikaele in a dangerous position in the 54th minute. 
  • Mikaele, who is on a development contract with the Cowboys for 2024, was influential, sparking the comeback with some second phase play before scoring a personal double. 

Thomas Mikaele Try

Play of the Game

There were other aspects of Ethan Strange's game which will matter more in his bid to be Canberra's No.6 for Round 1, but you've got to love the confidence the 19-year-old showed here to kick for himself and calmly touch the bouncing ball down. 

Ethan Strange Try

What's Next

Both sides have a chance to rest up next week before the Raiders are involved in the first game of the season to be played on Australian soil, when they play the Knights in Thursday night footy on March 7. The Cowboys are away to the Dolphins in Round 1 at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon. 

Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.