A decade after experiencing grand final heartbreak, the North Queensland Cowboys can lay claim to being National Rugby League champions with an astounding 17-16 victory over the Brisbane Broncos at ANZ Stadium tonight.
A Kyle Feldt try on the buzzer after some insane scrambling play from the Cowboys tied the game at 16-all after the Broncos maintain a 16-12 advantage for almost the entire second half.
Then four-time Dally M winner hit the post in a sideline conversion attempt well after the hooter send the game into golden point extra time.
A Broncos error on the extra time restart gave Cowboys the ball in ideal field position and Johnathan Thurston coolly slotted the winning field goal to create history.
Despite some willing early defence, the Cowboys again found themselves on the wrong end of scoreboard early when the Broncos turned an early 2-0 lead - off the back of a 40m Corey Parker penalty – into an 8-0 advantage when Broncos winger Corey Oates scored on the second play after the restart.
Buried deep in their own territory after a sublime Kyle Feldt restart, the Broncos ran in a superb 90m try when an Adam Blair offload unlocked the Cowboys’ right defensive edge, with Anthony Milford, Jack reed and finally Oates finding space to post the opening try in the 6th minute. Parker converted and an 8-0 Brisbane lead saw the Cowboys in familiar territory, trailing early.
But that handy advantage was wiped out almost immediately as the Cowboys put on a brilliant scrum play following a Broncos error form the restart.
Jake Granville picked up the ball from the lock position and darted through a half-gap before finding a flying Justin O’Neill, who was close enough to power his way over. Thurston converted and the Cowboys trailled 8-6.
The North Queensland weren’t yet done in the opening half though, as Granville again laid on a try, this time for prop James Tamou, who swivelled and dived over for a close-range four-pointer. Thurston added the extras and the Cowboys led 12-8.
The Cowboys’ Round 1 finals conquerors, though, would have the last laugh in the opening stanza as Jack Reed was on the end of a movement that started off a Johnathan Thurston error. 12-12 was soon 14-12 to the Broncos as Parker converted and the side enjoyed a slim halftime lead.
The second half also started with a penalty against the Cowboys, as Jordan Kahu took up where Parker left off, to pilot over the goal for a 16-12 Broncos lead.
The Cowboys had repeated scoring opportunities snuffed out by desperate Broncos defence, while late errors also cruelled the North Queensland team. Kane Linnett dropped the ball over the line, while Lachlan Coote was called for a double movement.
Linnett would spill the ball in strong field position a second time, while Broncos centre Jack reed was a man possessed in defence and made several try-saving plays in the second half.
The scoreline was identical to the one Brisbane defeated North Queensland by in the week 1 qualifying final and cemented their status as one of the great modern-day teams.
Coach Wayne Bennett has not lost an NRL grand final, having won six with Brisbane and one with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS 17 (Justin O’Neill, James Tamou, Kyle Feldt tries; Johnathan Thurston 2 goals, field goal) def BRISBANE BRONCOS 16 (Corey Oates, Jack Reed tries; Corey Parker goal, pen. goal, Jordan Kahu goal, pen. goal) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 82,758.