Thirty-three minutes of superb knockout football saw the North Queensland Cowboys win the inaugural Auckland Nines event with a 16-7 victory over Brisbane Broncos at Eden Park.
In a dour struggle North Queensland scored first through Antonio Winterstein who beat Josh Hoffman with a great step for a short run to the line. The Cowboys added to their lead with Curtis Rona who was the recipient of a Kane Linnett pass after he got the lucky bounce from a Michael Morgan kick. North Queensland were looking the goods with ten unanswered points.
Immediately after the break Javed Bowen was away but stepped on the touchline. A try early in the half would have put the game out of Brisbane’s reach. The Broncos spend the next few minutes pressuring the Cowboys line and went close on a number of occasions. Matt Gillett held up over the line and Sam Thiaday grounded just short of the line. With three minutes to go sustained pressure led to the Broncos getting within reach after Ben Hunt crashed over close to the posts and gain a most important five point try. It was the first time the Cowboys had their line broken in thirty-three minutes of footy. Once the Cowboys received the ball from the restart, Linnett was on hand again to set up Rona to complete a Finals double and give the North Queensland club their first title win.
The Cowboys earlier provided the upset of the tournament with a great defensive effort in victory over tournament favourites New Zealand Warriors. Shaun Johnson was unable to steer his side to the final as they fell 8-0 in a tough semi final. In the first semi-final Brisbane accounted for Cronulla 18-14.
It was a bitter sweet victory for the Cowboys who are set to lose Lachlan Coote for six months after an ACL injury in their opening match of the tournament.
The Auckland Nines Most Valuable Player was awarded to New Zealand Warriors Shaun Johnson after a superb tournament.
Almost 90,00 attended the event over the two days pleasing the organisers. Nines is here to stay!
Check out our Nines wrap-up this Wednesday.