Finals extra time gets golden tick
It wasn't just the Cowboys having a win on Friday night; the NRL Telstra Premiership also had a night to remember.
In fact, it was a night many will never forget. Pure football, a nail-biting finish and non-existent controversy combined to create one of the greatest single-game showcases in recent memory.
There was drama, a debutant, extra time, feats of strength and endurance bordering on superhuman, and of course there was a legend of the sport standing tallest at the exact moment he needed to.
Along with 18-year-old Cowboy Kalyn Ponga, the NRL debuted its fresh creation of 'extra time', and it went off without a hitch.
The football remained true, rather than a mess of fanciful field goal attempts, and the officiating was more consistent as the 'immediacy factor' had been removed from the situation, leaving a regular 10-minute span of football featuring tired defenders and multiple point-scoring opportunities.
In a cruel twist of fate, the very initiative Broncos coach Wayne Bennett campaigned so hard for was the thing that brought him undone as North Queensland used the time to build pressure through field position and weight of possession.
If it were a golden point scenario, the football probably would have panned out very differently.
"I thought it was great. It was a better spectacle and we got beaten fair-and-square in the end," Bennett said after the game.
"It wasn't a bit of luck or a fluke, it was playing real football.
"A lot of good footy played in that last 10 minutes, desperation by both sides. Well worth the exercise."
Cowboys match-winner Johnathan Thurston echoed Bennett's sentiments, stating his preference for extra time over golden point.
"Yes [to extra time] in finals, that's my opinion, and during the year maybe just golden point," Thurston said.
"When it's five minutes each way, it's not as frantic. You can sort of try and gain control of that extra time, so it was a better style of football.
"You can get through your sets and play a bit of field position. That's what we did and once we got the lead there just before half-time of that extra time, we were able to hold onto it."
Not one field goal was attempted in the 10 minutes of extra time, giving fans more opportunity to witness the likes of Jason Taumalolo almost bust through a defensive line, Thurston apply pressure and Anthony Milford scythe through tired defenders.
Friday night was truly a win for our game, and if the Canberra Raiders and Penrith Panthers can combine for even half of that excitement level at GIO Stadium on Saturday night, we are in for a special finals series.
First published on NRL.com.