Brisbane Broncos 16
Tries: Ben Hunt, Anthony Milford
Goals: Corey Parker 3
North Queensland Cowboys 12
Tries: Antonio Winterstein, Johnathon Thurston
Goals: Johnathon Thurston 2
Brisbane Broncos have booked a place in the Grand Final Qualifying match by defeating North Queensland Cowboys 16-12 in front of 50,388 fans at Suncorp Stadium.
Wayne Bennett used all of his twenty-nine years coaching experience to pull off a masterstroke when he injected twenty-one year old Kodi Nikorima into the game with fifteen to go. Nikorima making a break through mid-field to send live wire Anthony Milford over under the posts. That play put the Broncos out to a match winning ten point lead.
Johnathon Thurston’s try courtesy of Justin O’Neill’s kick after a run down the sideline created a dramatic final ten minutes for the capacity crowd in the all Queensland final. However it wasn’t to be for the Townsville based club who now face sudden death in Townsville against the winners of Sunday’s match between South Sydney Rabbitohs and Cronulla Sharks.
It was a game played at a frantic pace from the outset as both sides tried to assert their attacking prowess through a masterclass from Thurston and Ben Hunt. An early Corey Parker penalty goal put the home side ahead after nine minutes.
Approaching the half hour mark fatigue started to set in. It was Hunt who proved the difference in the opening forty as he ran at the line and then put a right foot step on Lachlan Coote on his way to the try line. It appeared the Cowboys would hit back immediately but Ethan Lowe juggled the ball in knocking on. However the advantage for offside was played and Thurston got the Cowboys within six with a penalty conversion. Kyle Feldt had the final chance of the first half but the play was pulled up for an obstruction on video review even though there was a suspect final pass and put down for the try.
North Queensland are by far the best second half side in the competition and that was proven within the first seven minutes of the second half. Corey Oates made a mistake inside his own half and instantly the Cowboys made them pay straight away as Thurston and Coote combined to send Antonio Winterstein. Agonisingly Thurston’s conversion hit the right hand uprights and the Cowboys trailed by two points. On the hour Parker converted a penalty goal after Lowe held down the tackled player.
Nikorima and Milford combined to give Brisbane one foot in the door to week three of the finals series. Thurston’s try in vein as the Cowboys couldn’t provide a match winning play in the final minutes of the game.
Based on this game it’s likely these two teams could meet on Grand Final day in an all Queensland Grand Final at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Best on ground for the Broncos was Hunt with his smart kicking game and presence to pounce on tiring defence. Thurston was slightly off his game with some kicking options going down the throat of Corey Oates. It only took one moment for Milford to provide a match winning play. Feldt having a good game out wide in diffusing kick after kick that headed his way.
Brisbane now await the winner of Sydney Roosters and Canterbury Bulldogs in the Grand Final Qualifier at Suncorp Stadium on Friday September 25.
North Queensland will host the winner of South Sydney and Cronulla at 1300 Smiles Stadium next Saturday September 19. The winner in Townsville will travel to Melbourne for a showdown on Saturday September 26.