Hoffman steals Locky's limelight as Broncos trump Cowboys

It was a night to celebrate the wonderful achievements of Darren Lockyer, but it was Broncos' fullback Josh Hoffman stealing the show with a hat-trick as the Brisbane side steered home a 34-16 win over North Queensland tonight at a packed Dairy Farmers Stadium.

Brisbane started strongest in front of the 26,463-strong crowd, racing in early tries through Hoffman and Jack Reed down the left edge to take a 12-0 lead. Despite the setback, the Cowboys hit back strongly, playing some exciting footy for much of the next 20 minutes to fight their way back. By halftime they had closed the gap to 18-10, Hoffman securing his second try for Brisbane off a grubber from Andrew McCullough, with the Cowboys two first half tries a result of brilliance from both Matt Bowen and Kalifa Faifai Loa.

With the match evenly poised, the Broncos continued to control proceedings in the second forty. Before long, Hoffman had his hat-trick - a superb burst out of his own end seeing the LeagueUnlimited.com Man of the Match run 70 metres for number three.

The Cowboys hit back with twenty to go, Brent Tate exploiting some poor defence on the Broncos' left side, but from there Brisbane held the home side out, adding to the scoreboard courtesy of a 70m Dale Copley run. A comedy of errors from a series of kickoffs in the last ten minutes from Johnathan Thurston heaped the pressure on the Cowboys and they never recovered to make a late charge.

Tonight's win temporarily lifts Brisbane to 2nd position, while the Cowboys are set to slip out of the top four should St George Illawarra defeat the Roosters on Sunday. Next week Brisbane have a Monday night date with the Knights at Ausgrid Stadium, while North Queensland head to ANZ to take on the rejuvenated South Sydney Rabbitohs next Friday evening.

Match Details
North Queensland Cowboys 16 were defeated by Brisbane Broncos 34
National Rugby League - Round 23 - Friday August 12, 2011 7:30pm
Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium
Referee: Matt Cecchin and Gavin Badger
Video Referee: Steve Clark
Touch Judges: Paul Holland and Gavin Reynolds
Crowd: 26,463
Halftime: North Queensland Cowboys 10 Brisbane Broncos 18

Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Josh Hoffman (3 Tries)
2 Points - Matt Bowen (1 Try)
1 Point - Darren Lockyer

North Queensland Cowboys (16)
Tries: Brent Tate, Matt Bowen, Kalifa Fai-Fai Loa
Conversions: Johnathan Thurston (2/3)

Brisbane Broncos (34)
Tries: Josh Hoffman (3), Dale Copley, Jack Reed
Conversions: Corey Parker (5/5)
Penalty Goals: Corey Parker (2/2)

LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary A big night awaits at Townsville's Dairy Farmers Stadium. The most notable event tonight is the playing of Darren Lockyer's 350th NRL match - however in addition to this amazing milestone, the Cowboys also welcome back Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott to the side as the finals approach.
Earlier tonight the Men of League Foundation presented a $28,000 cheque to the family of the late Sam Faust - a wonderful gesture from an amazing foundation.
Changes for the Cowboys - Aaron Payne is out, resulting in a minor reshuffle. James Segeyaro will start at hooker, Tariq Sims drops to the bench and Glenn Hall will start in the second row. Brisbane have just one omission - Jharal Yow Yeh is out, replaced by #18 Dale Copley.
Fulltime in Toyota Cup tonight and Brisbane ran away with this one, defeating the Cowboys 42-16.
You can get amongst the action tonight - while following our live updates, make sure you also discuss the game with hundreds of others on our forums. If you like it short and sweet, follow us on Twitter @LeagueUnlimited... and be sure to add the hashtag #NRLnqlbri & #Locky350 to any match related tweets!
A special moment as the Broncos trot out, led by captain and 350-match legend Darren Lockyer. The full house here at DFS erupts with applause for Locky, and then again a minute later for their own captain, the returning Johnathan Thurston. Here we go...
1 min: It is Lockyer who kicks us off. We're underway!
3 min: Fantastic early pressure following good metres from Brisbane. The ball goes up and the Cowboys lose it. Broncos scrum, another set for the visitors early.
4 min: Another knock-on, this time Ash Graham knocking it forward. Broncos scrum again.
7 min: TRY
TRY Brisbane Broncos
Scored by Josh Hoffman. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful.
After trying the right side a few times, the left side is where they score first. Hoffman makes it through the line for the opening points. Parker converts... just.
Brisbane Broncos 6-0
9 min: Better showing from the Cowboys in the last couple of minutes, finding themselves in good field position, but their last tackle options aren't putting much pressure on Brisbane.
11 min: TRY
TRY Brisbane Broncos
Scored by Jack Reed. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful.
The same movement to the left produces the same quality result, the Cowboys defenders caught short. Jack Reed the scorer, another successful kick out wide from Corey Parker.
Brisbane Broncos 12-0
16 min: Penalty now going to the Cowboys - lets see if they can get back into the contest...
19 min: TRY
TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Scored by Kalifa Fai-Fai Loa. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston unsuccessful.
The Cowboys decide to employ similar tactics, hammering the right a lot before going down the left and Kalifa Faifai-Loa benefits from some clever passing by Johnathan Thurston. Speaking of JT, he swings the conversion into the post and it bounces away.
Brisbane Broncos 12-4
22 min: Silly stuff from Glenn Hall, giving away a penalty for spending too much time in the tackle, late in the Brisbane set near halfway. It gives Brisbane a fresh set on the Cowboys' 20m line now.
23 min: Another penalty, Brisbane set to really hammer the Cowboys' goalline. McCullough dives from dummy half but isn't successful on tackle two. Held up, play the ball.
26 min: TRY
TRY Brisbane Broncos
Scored by Josh Hoffman. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful.
Hoffman has a first-half double following a brilliant little McCullough kick in behind the line. The Broncos' fullback pounces on it to extend his side's lead, while Parker easily adds the extras.
Brisbane Broncos 18-4
29 min: Jack Reed spills it coming from his own end... Cowboys ball on the opposition 20m. They'll want to close this gap before the break.
30 min: The Cowboys grab a penalty now, right on the Broncos' line.
31 min: The Cowboys turn on the excitement, Thurston finding Ashley Graham out wide, but the winger puts his toes on the chalk of the touchline before passing back inside and it won't be a try. Brisbane scrum.
33 min: Penalty Cowboys... Thurston grubbers through off a quick left side break, Tonga taken out in the chase for it and this gives the home side another chance. Tempers flaring here in Townsville...
36 min: TRY
TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Scored by Matt Bowen. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful.
Vintage Matt Bowen, he crosses for a well deserved try for the Cowboys. The gap is closed to eight following Thurston's conversion.
Brisbane Broncos 18-10
38 min: Some "entertainers" style footy makes good meterage for the Cowboys but after the last tackle kick it's all undone as Brisbane seem to make the same metres with simple, effective running from the forwards. Last tackle and the Broncos are now 30m out.
40 min: The Cowboys go high on their last tackle, the last of the half, and it's left to bounce. Willie Tonga almost has the Broncos on the back foot but he loses his footing and is put on his backside. HALFTIME in Townsville.
It's HALFTIME at Dairy Farmers Stadium, and a half of footy which saw Brisbane dominate - but they really didn't do enough to keep the Cowboys out of the contest. Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen have almost single-handedly kept the hosts in this one and will be key to them continuing the second-half charge. Anthony Griffin will be disappointed the lead is just eight when the Broncos seemed to be on top for long periods of the first forty. Join us soon for the second half of Darren Lockyer's milestone 350th match.
40 min: Second half underway and it'll be Brisbane with first possession in this passage of play.
42 min: More entertaining stuff from the Cowboys, offloads and wild passes galore, Thurston has crossed the line but it's come back for a penalty to the Cowboys. Brisbane are offside there.
43 min: Cowboys hooker James Segeyaro loses the ball and is injured in a tackle on the Cowboys line. Broncos scrum.
46 min: Brisbane penalised for being offside, big piggyback out of their own half here for North Queensland.
49 min: TRY
TRY Brisbane Broncos
Scored by Josh Hoffman. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful.
Terrible stuff from the Cowboys, Josh Hoffman makes a huge burst from his own territory and has the speed to back it up, racing 70 metres to cap a superb night. The young fullback is stealing Lockyer's thunder! Parker's conversion extends the side's lead to 14.
Brisbane Broncos 24-10
51 min: Wow... what the heck is going on there... bomb goes up, up, up, up, up.... up.... Lockyer is a freak. Bowen had no idea where it was going to land, it went that high. They end up with it but Thurston is eventually grounded in goal. Drop out.
56 min: Broncos error, they've spilled it and it means the Cowboys now have the ball in prime field position. They try and try but there's no Try... Bowen's wrapped up on the last and it's a handover. Poor last tackle option.
60 min: Superb last tackle option this time, Thurston gets a kick out to Hoffman just near the line and his chasers manage to force the fullback into the in-goal. Drop out.
62 min: TRY
TRY North Queensland Cowboys
Scored by Brent Tate. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful.
This has been a great night of backline movements and another one results in a try, the Cowboys catching the Broncos short on their attacking right side. Tate scores the try, Thurston with a pinpoint conversion to reduce the margin to eight.
Brisbane Broncos 24-16
65 min: VIDEO REFEREE, possible try to Dale Copley from Brisbane... he ran a long way to score that but the question-mark is on the initial contact from a Broncos player.
66 min: TRY
TRY Brisbane Broncos
Scored by Dale Copley. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful.
That seems to be the game with less than 15 to go, Dale Copley takes a loose ball in the air on his own 30m line and his speed does the rest. Parker converts and that's the ballgame, short of a Cowboys miracle with 15 remaining.
Brisbane Broncos 30-16
67 min: Oh dear. Thurston's kickoff goes out 45m from the Broncos line... penalty Brisbane on halfway.
68 min: VIDEO REFEREE for another possible Dale Copley try. Looks like he's been held up over the line.
69 min: It is of course NO TRY, Copley held up and he'll play the ball on tackle one, Brisbane still with a whole set on the Cowboys' line...
PENALTY GOAL Brisbane Broncos
Penalty goal attempt by Corey Parker successful.
Now a penalty against Cowboys captain Matt Scott. He's pushed the man over at the play-the-ball. They'll take the two, and Corey Parker has no problem with it from in front.
Brisbane Broncos 32-16
72 min: Panic footy starting to come from the Cowboys now, Tate breaks down the sideline but the next tackle is the last and noone, not even Thurston, can find the right option before Cory Paterson just drops it.
PENALTY GOAL Brisbane Broncos
Penalty goal attempt by Corey Parker successful.
Cowboys working the player over in the tackle a bit too much there and Parker adds another two points to his growing tally.
Brisbane Broncos 34-16
77 min: A Cowboys error has Brisbane on the attack inside the Cowboys' 40m zone... but two tackles in following a great break from Justin Hodges, we have a forward pass against Brisbane.
78 min: Brisbane concede a penalty in their own half, Cowboys into the Broncos' half now.
79 min: Last tackle sees the ball flicked backwards over the sideline. Brisbane changeover and we'll have another set of six before the siren sounds.
That's all we have time for at DFS, Darren Lockyer a winner in game 350, a controlled second half propelling Brisbane to second position pending other results this weekend.

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