25 rounds, 192 games, #Origin on a Sunday, and a September Grand Final.
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Brisbane have secured their place in the top three of the NRL Premiership this evening with a clinical 20-10 victory over 2015 premiers North Queensland, who themselves face a nervous wait across the remainder of Round 26 to see if they qualify for the top eight.
In front of 23,000 fans at Townsville's 1300SMILES Stadium, the Broncos were keen to bounce back from a thorough hiding at the hands of Parramatta last week, and ensured they would go on the front foot when they opened the scoring 14 minutes into the contest through Matt Gillett.
A clever kick from Kodi Nikorima after he broke into the backfield found speedster James Roberts at the 20-minute mark to see the Broncos extend their lead to 10-0 before Jordan Kahu, fresh on return from injury, latched onto a Nikorima bomb to extend the visitors' lead once again.
It wasn't until they were 14-0 down that the Cowboys began wrestling back control, Gavin Cooper carrying several defenders over the line for the home side's first points of the night.
The eight-point halftime buffer would be as close as North Queensland got. Both sides were kept from scoring in the twenty minutes following the resumption, and while the Cowboys piled pressure on the Broncos' line it amounted to no point. An Adam Blair break finally saw the scoreboard operator put back into action, the hulking forward scoring his first try in 56 matches to avoid the dreaded 'nudie run'.
While Kyle Feldt managed a consolation try on the siren, the Cowboys now will be hoping the chips fall in their favour if they're to line up in the finals next weekend. The loss leaves them hanging precariously, although their fate is automatically sealed if the Panthers defeat Manly on Saturday evening at Brookvale.
Brisbane meanwhile will be sweating on the prognosis for Darius Boyd who injured his hamstring in the shadows of halftime, before they line up for their Week 1 finals clash, most likely against the Roosters at Allianz Stadium. They could host the match at Suncorp - or even against an alternative opponent in Parramatta - should results fall differently.
North Queensland Cowboys 10 - Brisbane Broncos 20
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
Halftime Score: North Queensland Cowboys 6 Brisbane Broncos 14
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Jordan Kahu
2 points - James Roberts
1 points - Jason Taumalolo
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS (10)
Tries: Gavin Cooper, Kyle Feldt
Conversions: Ethan Lowe (1/2)
BRISBANE BRONCOS (20)
Tries: Matt Gillett, Jordan Kahu, James Roberts, Adam Blair
Conversions: Jordan Kahu (2/4)