The game was as tight as an arm wrestle, and about as aesthetically pleasing. (AAP: Michael Chambers)
The Broncos have beaten the Cowboys 18-14 thanks to a last-minute Jake Turpin try in Townsville, but do not let the scoreline fool you, this was not one of those classic Queensland derbies.
Now seventh on the ladder — with the Sharks, Tigers and Panthers one point behind them — Brisbane snatched victory at the death in the manner fans have come to expect from games between these teams, but Turpin’s game-winner did not come at the end of a barnburner.
Other than the jerseys, the game bore no resemblance to the spectacular 2015 grand final or the numerous thrillers from 2015 to 2017 that saw four of six games decided by one point, including the decider.
With both teams on the outside looking in at the finals spots heading into Thursday night, it was unreasonable to assume the game would live up to that reputation, but there was hope the rivals would rise for the derby, which has been one to circle on the calendar for years.
Instead, viewers were treated to a scrappy mess of a game full of poor ball handling and ill discipline.
The teams made eight errors in the first half, while the Cowboys missed 16 tackles but the Broncos’ attack was so disjointed that they could only cross once, when Anthony Milford finished off a long-range effort with help from Jamayne Isaako.
Then, in the 32nd minute, one of the Broncos’ many dropped balls literally handed the Cowboys the equaliser, when Gehamat Shibasaki knocked on under his goalposts, straight into the waiting arms of Cowboys back-rower Shane Wright.
The scores were level at the break, but the standard of play did not improve much as the teams tried to break the deadlock and fatigue set in.
North Queensland poked its nose in front when half-back Jake Clifford grubbered for himself to get through a scattered defensive line in the 56th minute.
But the advantage did not last long, as some hot-stepping by David Fifita created a Broncos try out of nothing in the 64th minute.
It was soon after this that the Broncos’ woeful offence began to irk captain-turned-Fox-Sports-commentator Corey Parker so much that he described one of their particularly clunky attacking raids as “one of the worst you’ll see in 2019”.
Still, scores were tied again heading into the final 10 minutes, so both teams were searching for the game-winner and the Broncos effectively gifted the game to their hosts on 71 minutes when, after Brisbane’s Tevita Pangai Jr knocked on on his own tryline, fellow breakout star Payne Haas ran through a Cowboy’s play-the-ball and gave away a penalty right in front of the posts.
Clifford graciously potted the penalty goal and it appeared to be enough until the Broncos finally pieced a constructive set of six and got into good attacking position.
The plays that led to Turpin’s try in the 80th minute were familiarly sloppy, until the hooker-cum-halfback swooped on a bouncing ball after a misdirected offload and stepped through the defence to touch down.
True to form, the winning try sparked a small melee in the in-goal area, with Matt Lodge prominently featuring not for the first time in the night, but the game was over and Brisbane’s chances of playing finals footy had been revived.