The Brisbane Broncos have stamped their authority on the top eight folllowing a spirited 24-16 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys in front of a sell-out crowd at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville tonight.
Billed as the Queensland derby, the match lived up to expectations as the Broncos put together a polished first-half attacking display to lead 24-4 at the break.
The Cowboys fought back strongly in the second half to score 12 unanswered points.
But the visitors held on thanks to a first half lead inspired by Broncos skipper Darren Locker.
Celebrating his record 275th appearance for the Broncos, Lockyer was sensational in attack in the opening 40 minutes, but the win may have come at a price with the champion five eighth being forced from the field late in the match with a serious knee injury.
UPDATE: Brisbane skipper Darren Lockyer has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Scans confirmed that Lockyer ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the Broncos' 24-16 win over the Cowboys and will require a knee reconstruction.
Match Details Round 18 - Full Time :: July 13th, 2007 07:30 PM Venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium Referee: Sean Hampstead
North Queensland Cowboys 16 Tries: Ashley Graham (2), Matthew Bowen Goals: Ashley Graham (2/3) Brisbane Broncos 24 Tries: Dane Carlaw, Steve Michaels, Karmichael Hunt, Corey Parker Goals: Corey Parker (4/4)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Darren Lockyer (Broncos) 2 Points: Ben Hannant (Broncos) 1 Point: Matthew Bowen (Cowboys) LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary A great night for footy in FNQ tonight. Big crowd on hand for one the NRL's classic derbies. Players on the field. A landmark match for Darren Lockyer who is set to play a record 275 games for the Broncos. Broncos to kick off. KICK OFF!
5 min: Cowboys absorbing the early pressure with the Broncos getting repeat sets at the Cowboy's line.
14 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Winger Ashley Graham scores out wide following some quick passing along the backline, the Cowboys' first real opportunity down the Bronco's end of the field. Conversion attempt by Ashley Graham hits the uprights and is unsuccessful. Brisbane Broncos 6-4
26 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos Karmichael Hunt scores next the posts following a 50m bust beginning with Lockyer going through the gap. Great attacking play. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful. Brisbane Broncos 18-4
30 min: Cowboys five eighth Jason Smith has been forced off with an ankle injury and will take no further part.
36 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos Corey Parker crashes over 20m in from touch after Michael Ennis sights a gap and delivers the pass. Cowboys falling off tackles. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful. Brisbane Broncos 24-4
39 min: Cowboys attacking and Paul Bowman looks certain to score, only to be held back by desperate Broncos defence.
Half time: Broncos 24-4 Broncos enjoying 56% possession. Cowboys missing too many tackles.
Second half underway...
42 min: NO TRY Cowboys denied. Johnathan Thurston appears to have scored but video ref rules obstruction against Cowboys centre Scott Minto.
50 min: Cowboys on the attack following a deep penalty kick downfield
53 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Graham gets a double, capitalising on a backline movement out wide and then improves his position to score behind the uprights. Follows repeat sets at the Broncos line. Conversion attempt by Ashley Graham successful. Brisbane Broncos 24-10
60 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Matty Bowen steps and weaves and completely baffles the defence from close range to score a sensational individual try 12m in from touch. Conversion attempt by Ashley Graham successful! Brisbane Broncos 24-16
65 min: Cowboys still on the comeback trail but a kick out on the full from Bowen puts the Broncos back on the attack. Cowboys hold out the Broncos.
70 min: Lockyer limping. Probably a cramp. Even possession with field position favouring the Cowboys. But time is running out.
72 min: Thurston and Bowen putting on a show in attack but the Broncos defence in equal to the task with Thurston being tackled over the sideline.
75 min: Lockyer still in trouble. Looking like it might be the right knee again. Worse than first thought. Lockyer forced from the field.
77 min: Cowboys launch what might their last real attacking raid. Playing catch up and the Cowboys lose posssession.
Full time Broncos 24-16 Defending premiers Brisbane continue their winning run with their fifth victory on the trot, applying the blow torch to the top four. The Cowboys now in danger of slipping out of the top four. Broncos five eighth Darren Lockyer was tremendous in the first half, setting up numerous attacking raids. Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen did his best to get the Cowboys back in the match in the second half. Special mention to Broncos prop Ben Hannant who put in a sterling effort in defence and plenty of yards with the ball in hand.