The Knights came out second best against reigning NRL champions the North Queensland Cowboys in their first match of the 2016 Auckland Nines, being defeated 28-12.

While several of the Knights’ young stars showed some promise late on, a star-studded Cowboys side was simply too strong over the 18 minutes of the match.

An early penalty to the Cowboys gave them the impetus to score first points, 19-year-old speedster Gideon Gela-Mosby finding space down the left with some help from Lachlan Coote.

With five minutes gone Justin O’Neill doubled his side’s lead down the opposite flank and Coote added the extras to push the score to 10-0.

The Cowboys were running the show in every aspect now and soon after skipper Cooper scored down the left.

His kick went wide, but moments later Gela-Mosby scored his second of the match with a nimble finish in the corner.

The score was 18-0 by half-time and it didn’t take the Cowboys long to score again when play resumed. Returning star Matt Bowen found space 20 metres out to run to the line and pass for Cooper to score his second.

Two minutes later the Knights finally got on the scoresheet when promising young half Brock Lamb showed plenty of pace to reach a clever Korbin Sims grubber first.

Lamb converted his own try to make the score 22-6 and in the following set 19-year-old hooker Danny Levi powered his way through several markers to score just outside the posts.

Lamb again converted, but the Cowboys had the final say in the match when Cooper completed his hat-trick after the siren to make the final score 28-12.

SQUAD

1. Jake Mamo, 2. Nathan Ross, 3. Jaelen Feeney, 4. Aku Uate, 6. Brock Lamb, 8. Pauli Pauli, 9. Tyler Randell, 11. Korbin Sims, 12. Robbie Rochow, 13. Jacob Saifiti, 14. Sione Mata'utia, 15. Joe Tapine, 16. Tariq Sims, 18. Danny Levi.

The Knights come up against the Panthers at 3.15pm AEST / 5.15 NZST.