Photo: Charles Knight © NRL Photos

Cowboys v Broncos
7.05pm, Friday 10 March
Suncorp Stadium

Despite the teams having played each other an incredible seven times in the past two seasons – including no less than three amazing one-point results – tonight's clash between these two ultra-consistent Queensland teams never disappoints.

The latest chapter in this storied history shapes as a corker too.

Both teams opened their 2017 campaign with tough, hard-fought wins against strong opposition – the Broncos downed reigning premiers Cronulla 26-18, while the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys snatched a 20-16 victory in dramatic circumstances against the Raiders in front of the 1300SMILES Stadium faithful.


RECENT RIVALRY

Round 3, 2015 – Broncos 44 def Cowboys 22: It was to be the Cowboys’ last loss for over three months as the Broncos dealt the North Queenslanders a harsh lesson in early-season footy with an eight-tries-to-four victory. What history now shows would be the Cowboys’ golden year – as they marched towards a maiden premiership – started in rocky fashion, the team dropping their opening three games of the season. After the heavy defeat in Brisbane – where winger Lachlan Maranta scored a double and Corey Parker had an individual points haul of 16 – the Cowboys would reel off 11 straight wins, setting up their famed ride to glory

Round 10, 2015 – Cowboys 31 def Broncos 20: The Michael Morgan show was playing to a packed 1300SMILES Stadium on this night, the dynamic young five-eighth scoring a hat-trick as the resurgent Cowboys revelled in their winning streak and found different ways to prevail. The team would win four more games before the Sharks snapped the streak in Round 16.

2015 Finals, Week 1 – Broncos 16 def Cowboys 12: In what was to be a gritty preview of the 2015 grand final, the Broncos edged the Cowboys on this occasion, with scoring opportunities rare and attrition rates through the roof. Goal-kicking and penalty shots ultimately proved the difference, with Parker kicking four from four as both teams scored two tries apiece.

2015 Grand Final – Cowboys 17 def Broncos 16: The Kyle Feldt try off the Morgan flick pass … the Thurston missed conversion … the Ben Hunt drop from the Feldt kick … the quick James Tamou play-the-ball … the Thurston field goal! Premiership glory! These were the key moments in the grand final of modern times.

Round 4, 2016 – Broncos 21 def Cowboys 20: The grand final rematch, somehow, came within a stone’s throw of besting its predecessor as the Cowboys scored three tries to two but ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard, courtesy of no less than four Parker penalty goals and a monster 40m golden-point extra-time field goal from Anthony Milford. 

Round 11, 2016 – Cowboys 19 def Broncos 18: In an inexplicable case of one-point tit-for-tat, it was the Cowboys' turn to again pull a rabbit out of the hat as Thurston’s regulation-time field goal sealed the win, making the total points margin in the past four games between the sides a paltry seven points.

2016 Final, Week 2 – Cowboys 26 def Broncos 20: That man Morgo was again neck-deep in a match-winning flick pass, but this time as the recipient, not the deliverer, as the Cowboys’ dramatic extra-time finals win kept their premiership defence alive for another week. History shows that the following week, the Cowboys’ season would be finished at the hands of the merciless Sharks, but the JT flick to Morgan for what would be the match-winner was one of the moments of the season.


IS IT A BOYD, IS IT A PLANE?

Broncos captain Darius Boyd was sublime last weekend, throwing the last pass on two Broncos tries and generally causing a menace when chiming into Brisbane’s backline. The Cowboys are well aware of the threat Boyd poses, while they also have a very good ball-playing No.1 at their disposal in Lachlan Coote, who last weekend put in a typically rugged and consistent display for his team.


HELLO TAU, MY OLD FRIEND, IT’S GOOD TO MARK UP ON YOU AGAIN

They would have opposed each other at Cowboys training sessions in 2016, but former teammates and centres Justin O’Neill and Tautau Moga square off for real tonight with the powerful Moga shifting south to Brisbane in the off-season.

Playing just his second NRL game in almost two years, Moga was the Broncos’ players’ player against the Sharks last-start, and his career resurgence continues directly opposite O’Neill in Round 2.


POINTY END OF MILESTONE BATTLE

Last week, we flagged a looming milestone for close friends and team captains Thurston and Melbourne’s Cam Smith – heading into Round 1, both were in spitting distance of 2,000 career points.

Smith needed seven against the Bulldogs and Thurston five versus the Raiders.

Both kicked just two goals apiece, leaving Smithy three shy of becoming the fifth man in history to reach the milestone.

JT is on 1999 points, BUT Smith’s Storm play the Warriors immediately before the Cowboys take on Brisbane, so he may just get one up on his mate.


HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • Both team scored four tries and conceded three tries last round … who’s tipping another tight one?

  • Head to head: played 46, Brisbane won 30, North Queensland won 14, two matches drawn.

  • At Suncorp: played 13, Brisbane won nine, North Queensland won four.

  • Tireless Cowboys forwards Jason Taumalolo and Matt Scott ran for a combined 495m last weekend in the win over Canberra.

  • The Broncos have named the same 17 that downed the Sharks, while the Cowboys’ only change will be Antonio Winterstein returning from injury, replacing Javid Bowen.

  • Young outside backs Gideon Gela-Mosby and Kalyn Ponga drop out of the Cowboys 21-man squad.