The Brisbane Broncos are back in the winner’s circle as they out muscled a North Queensland Cowboys side who were desperate to keep their finals hopes alive by 20-10 at 1300SMILES Stadium on Thursday night.
A Different Broncos Outfit
Brisbane were determined to make last week’s game and long and distance memory. They were a totally different team against the Cowboys with their defence proving to be a brick wall at times. Brisbane had much better line speed in defence and never let the opposition completely dominate the ruck. No wonder the Broncos came away with the two competition points and will now await on the Sydney Roosters vs Gold Coast Titans match to see if they will play their first finals game at home or at Allianz Stadium.
North Queensland were riding high with their come from behind victory against the Tigers last weekend. The Cowboys had plenty of opportunities with the football in enemy territory but lacked polish at the end of their sets. There was one player sitting on the sideline who would have made a significant difference to this injury depleted side. Johnathan Thurston is that man. He is the player who can win games and produce the right play at the right time. Last night you can tell this team missed his influence and presence on the field.
The First Half
The contest was pretty even for the opening ten minutes as both sides completed their sets and were stoic in defence. On the halfway line the visitors clicked into gear through Matt Gillett who was well supported by an excellent flick pass from James Roberts for his effort. The Broncos led 4-nil after 13 minutes.
The Cowboys looked to have added another injury to their heavily numbered casualty ward as Antonio Winterstein played the rest of the first half with a bad hamstring. Kodi Nikorima who played one of his best games of the year, peppered the wing of Winterstein with a dynamic run down the touchline and assisted James Roberts try with a nice grubber kick towards the uprights. Five Minutes later Nikroma targeted the wing of Winterstein once more as he placed a pin point accurate cross field kick to a high to a high flying Jordan Kahu who finished it off for Brisbane. Kahu landed his sideline conversion as Brisbane had a commanding 14-nil lead.
North Queensland needed to be next to score and eight minutes before half-time they came up with the goods. The Townsville boys had a few exciting multiple sets of six on the Brisbane goal line as Gavin Cooper muscled his way over the try line from close range. Ethan Lowe slotted an important conversion as the Cowboys trailed Brisbane 14-6 at the break.
Brisbane Take Control
The second half proved to be a battle of attrition as Brisbane showed desperation and spirit in their defence. They were asked to defend for lengthy periods on their goal line and did well to prevent Ben Hampton from scoring out of dummy half. Darius Boyd wasn’t on the field during the second half as he suffered a suspected hamstring injury which could possibly rule him out for the season.
Brisbane were rewarded for their hard work in defence as Adam Blair fended off a few defenders close to the Cowboys try line and posted his first try of 2017. Kahu had an easy conversion as Brisbane jumped to a 20-6 lead.
The Cowboys were running out of time and luck. They needed to minimise Brisbane’s winning margin as points differential will be the one and determining factor on whether they will feature or miss out in September football. Brisbane forced North Queensland to go side to side with the football in hand. If there was one thing Cowboys could of done more it was to play more direct and tire out the Broncos forwards.
However the Cowboys grabbed a vital consolation try through Kyle Feldt who was aided by a nice left side attacking shift. It proved to be too little too late for the hosts as Brisbane ran out victors by 20-10 and will most likely take on the Sydney Roosters in the first week of semi finals.
A Nervous Weekend for North Queensland
The Cowboys have a nervous weekend ahead and will await on the results of the Manly vs Penrith and St George vs Canterbury matches. They are now on same points differential as Manly and can finish as high as seventh or as low as ninth. For their sake, they will hope Penrith can knock off Manly and that Canterbury can cause an upset against St George. It’s a weekend which could either bring sheer delight or bitter disappointment for the Cowboys.
Brisbane Broncos 20
Tries: Matt Gillett, James Roberts, Jordan Kahu, Adam Blair
Goals: Jordan Kahu 2
North Queensland Cowboys 10
Tries: Gavin Cooper, Kyle Feldt
Goals: Ethan Lowe 1