The North Queensland Cowboys have completed a rare sweep of QLD teams downing a fast-finishing Brisbane Broncos 40-26 in front of a vocal home crowd in Townsville tonight.
It was billed as a return of old as the Cowboys and Broncos are rapidly rising sides after the bitter disappointment of the past few seasons. Tonight showcased why these two sides deserve to be playing in the finals in 2022. It was a frantic start to the contest with both sides making unforced errors which meant that the sides were unable to get the upper hand.
The first try came in the eleventh minute after a Peta Hiku pass was poorly executed, Chad Townsend failed to gather the ball and Billy Walters picked up the scraps to cross for the opening try of the contest. However, Adam Reynolds managed to hand the Cowboys a try on a silver platter four minutes later when his cutout pass inside the Broncos' own 20 was intercepted by Murray Taulagi and the QLD winger raced away to level the scores.
Both sides exchanged penalty goals to close out the opening forty minutes. Val Holmes potted the first when Reynolds kicked his second restart of play out on the full to go ahead by two before Ezra Mam was taken off the ball which allowed Reynolds to level the scores. North Queensland had the lead at the break following a ball strip and another Holmes penalty goal and led 10-8 at half-time.
North Queensland started the second half the better of the two sides and were rewarded when boom rookie forward Griffin Neame crashed over following a lovely pass from Reece Robson to extend the lead to eight points. Brisbane felt the scoreboard pressure and that was their undoing when Jordan Riki forced an ill-timed offload to Kotoni Staggs and off the scrum, the Cowboys shifted it right and it took a lovely pass from Scott Drinkwater to Kyle Feldt and North Queensland's lead was extended to fourteen.
Brisbane had some more ball and were rewarded when Reynolds and Mam combined to send Corey Oates over to reduce the deficit to eight points. Robson continued his great season crossing for a vital try getting through some sloppy defence and keeping the margin to fourteen points. Jeremiah Nanai crashed over some paper-thin defence to give the Cowboys a comfortable 20-point lead. But, as has been the theme of this round, you never get comfortable with a big lead. Brisbane fired a late comeback crossing for two quick-fire tries. Oates crossed for his second off a well-worked scrum play before Selwyn Cobbo crashed over from dummy half on the next set to reduce the margin to eight points before Taulagi crossed in the final moments to seal a well-deserved victory for North Queensland.
North Queensland have the bye next weekend while Brisbane takes on St George Illawarra at home next Sunday.