Wow, what a way to kick off round 22. Another thrilling contest between two of Queensland’s biggest teams, as the rivalry between the Cowboys and Broncos never seems to disappoint anyone.
Defence may not have been the order of the day in this match, however, it also means that there were no shortages of both attack and tries, as the 20,000 in attendance were thoroughly entertained. It was a match of great significance, as it was the 300th game of Broncos stalwart Sam Thaiday, as he and Cowboys superstar Johnathan Thurston would play in their final ever Queensland Derby, with both set to retire at season’s end.
The win saw the Cowboys go a game clear of last place, while the Broncos’ are left looking nervously over their shoulders, with the Warriors and Tigers breathing down their necks.
Here are five things we learned from the match:
1 Points aplenty in yet another thriller
The Queensland Derby never seems to disappoint anyone, unless your team is on the wrong end of the scoreline. Matches between the Cowboys and Broncos since 2015 have been absolute thrillers, with some even needing golden point or extra time to determine a winner (none more so than the 2015 grand final). Despite the lowly position of the Cowboys, they were still expected to give the Broncos a shake, as they are not only desperate to send champion co-captain Johnathan Thurston out on a positive note, but have broken the hearts of big brother on numerous occasions in recent seasons.
In this match, the Cowboys weathered an early storm by the Broncos to race to a 14-2 lead. It seemed that the Cows would add to their tally, however the Bronx got back into the match, courtesy of a somewhat dubious intercept try to speedy centre James Roberts. It was somewhat dubious, as it appeared that Roberts knocked it into the shoulder of opposite number Kane Linnett in the lead up, thereby constituting a knock on. The Bronx would then score another try through Matt Lodge, which was awarded as an 8 point try due to Te Maire Martin leading in with his knees. Two penalty goals, including a long range goal by Kyle Feldt on the stroke of halftime, saw the Cowboys take the lead at the break.
The 2nd half saw each side take a cautious approach to resume proceedings, before the Broncos drew level with a penalty goal. The Bronx then increased their intensity to nab 2 quick tries to extend their lead to 30-18. However, as they have often done in these fixtures, the Cowboys simply refused to surrender, and would score a couple of quick tries through Feldt and Gavin Cooper. They would snuff out any attacking threats by big brother and would continually press their line. They were eventually rewarded when JT put in a kick, which took a high bounce and was grabbed and grounded by powerful back rower Coen Hess, to put the Cows in front. They would hold on to that lead and win yet another thrilling derby match. As such, the Cows atoned for the derby match in Brisbane, where the Cowboys appeared set to break big brother’s heart yet again, only to be denied by the goalpost.
It begs the question whether future derby matches between the two sides will remain as classics, with the impending retirement of JT at season’s end.
2 Cowboys forwards prove to be the difference
One of the primary reasons why the Cowboys emerged triumphant in this thriller of a match is due to the colossal performances of their key forwards in Jason Taumalolo, Jordan McLean and Matt Scott. The trio of superstar forwards for the Cows amassed 286, 195 and 182 respectively, as the they undoubtedly submitted their best performances of an otherwise underwhelming season for their team. However, given their opponents were their biggest rivals in the Broncos, perhaps it’s of no surprise that they lifted for the big occasion. After all, they are as desperate as their teammates to send JT out on at least a positive note.
With all due respect to the Broncos, their forwards weren’t too bad, as Matt Lodge and Joe Ofahengaue made 188 and 184 metres, respectively. Moreover, for all his detractors, Lodge was rewarded for his strong performance with a first half try to give the Broncos the lead. However, their other forward to have made over 100 metres was Tevita Pangai Junior, who made 101 metres.
For the Cows, Taumalolo had scored a barnstorming try to open his side’s scoring. However, McLean, Scott and Taumalolo were ably supported by their interchange forwards Scott Bolton and John Asiata, who made 78 and 67 metres, respectively. In addition, second rowers Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess chimed in with some valuable metres, as well as being industrious. Moreover, Hess made his most valuable contribution for the match by scoring the match winning try, which came on the back of a JT grubber. The Cows were dominated by the Bronx in the first part of the 2nd half, when their superstar forwards were on the interchange bench. However, their reintroduction into the game at the hour mark saw them regain the ascendancy. This goes to show how valuable the superstar trio are.
3 Cowboys go one game clear of bottom place - for now
If the Cowboys were going to make any steps towards avoiding the dreaded wooden spoon, it was absolutely crucial that they win this massive contest. Had they been on the wrong end of the final scoreline, they may have found themselves at the bottom of the ladder at the conclusion of this round, particularly if the Eels were able to defeat the Dragons. Despite skipping to a 14-2 lead in the first half and leading 18-16 at the break, it appeared that the Cows were destined for another defeat, with big brother establishing a 30-18 lead by the midway point of the 2nd half.
However, once Taumalolo, Scott and McLean were brought back onto the field, the men from the tropics had wrested momentum from big brother, to score 2 quick fire tries, to suddenly narrow the deficit to a sole penalty goal. They would continue to hammer the Broncos’ try line, before eventually making the crucial breakthrough via a Hess try. They would repel any attacking raids by the Bronx, to eventually break their hearts yet again.
As such, this much-needed win sees the Cowboys draw level with the Bulldogs and Sea Eagles on 14 points, and go a game clear of the bottom placed Eels. Therefore, they will definitely avoid bottom place for this round. Their next home match will be their final match in Townsville for the season, where a multitude will be at stake. That match will be against the Eels, as it will prove crucial to deciding who will finish with the unwanted prize of the spoon. Moreover, a motivating factor for the Cows in that match is the fact that the legendary JT will be playing in front of his adoring fans for the final time at home.
4 Not the result for Broncos legend Sam Thaiday’s milestone match
This derby match had a tantalising factor, in that superstars Johnathan Thurston and Sam Thaiday were retiring at the end of the season, therefore would be playing in their final ever Queensland Derby. Moreover, this match was extra special for Thaiday, as he would be playing in front of his 300th match' and it was against the club he grew up supporting, given he is a Townsville junior.
After 60 minutes, it seemed the Broncos would give their legendary forward the ideal result for his milestone match, having established a 30-18 lead. Unfortunately for Big Sammy, his boyhood team would work their way back into the match, and snatch victory from under his team’s nose. As such, he finished on the wrong end of the scoreline for his milestone match.
Although he finished the match on the losing side, Big Sammy would have mixed feelings by the end of the match. Moreover, although he would have preferred to win his milestone match, he had the thrill of playing in front of the supporters from the town he grew up in.
5 Top 8 spot more precarious for Broncos
Prior to this match, the Broncos saw themselves in 7th place on 26 points, level with the Sharks, but behind them on points differential. They were eyeing off a potential spot in the top four, however, they also had not officially sealed a place in the finals. The Warriors and Tigers are not that far behind them on the ladder. As such, a win here would have consolidated their place in the top 8, whereas a loss would leave them looking nervously over their shoulders at the Warriors and Tigers. After narrowly trailing the Cowboys 18-16 at halftime, they would suddenly shoot out to a 12 point lead over little brother at the hour mark. Surely a struggling Cowboys side with a leaky defence could not possibly work their way back into the contest, let alone win the match, right?
That deficit, coupled with the motivation of moving away from the spoon, would merely spur on the Cows, as they turned a 12 point deficit into a 4 point win in the space of 20 minutes. This loss meant a number of things for the Broncos. Firstly, they relinquished another match to the Cowboys that was theirs for the taking. Secondly, they would spend the remainder of the round looking nervously over their shoulders, as they could just be hanging onto their place in the top 8, should the Warriors win their match against the Knights. The Broncos simply must win their remaining games, if they are to secure their place in the finals.
What did you learn from North Queensland's derby win over the Broncos? Let us know in the comments below.
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