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A second-half implosion may have cost the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Under-20s a double chance in the National Youth Competition finals as they blew a handy lead to lose 26-24 to the Brisbane Broncos in Townsville tonight.

Leading 18-8 at half time of this Round 26 encounter, the Cowboys were out-enthused in the second 40 as the eighth-placed Broncos scored three tries to one in the period to snatch the win.

In fact, a draw looked likely until the Cowboys conceded a late penalty 30m from their line, with Broncos back-rower Kotoni Staggs calmly slotting the match-winner.

It was ill-discipline and uncharacteristic errors that ruined the Cowboys’ performance, even when they were leading on the scoreboard.

The hosts conceded a slew of early penalties to give away valuable field position at crucial times, while classy halfback Jake Clifford had a night to forget in twice kicking restarts out on the full.

The loss means the Cowboys’ top-four aspirations are in the hands of other teams, with Aaron Payne’s men finishing the home-and-away season on 32 points with 14 wins and 10 losses from their 24 games.

They will be hoping the Rabbitohs beat the Eels on Friday night.

BRISBANE BRONCOS NYC 26 (Herbie Farnworth 2, Josh Fauid, Brandon Russell, Kotoni Staggs tries; Staggs 3 goals) def NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOYA COWBOYS NYC 24 (Jake Clifford, Michael Carroll, Mitchell Dunn, Emry Pere tries; Clifford 4 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium.

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.