Matt Harris, Queensland Correspondent, NRL.com
Another gritty and determined defensive performance by the Broncos has helped them come from behind to bite the Cowboys late in a thrilling 16-12 victory at Suncorp Stadium before a heaving crowd of more than 42,000.
The feisty contest was punctuated by dropped ball and poor fifth-tackle kicking options, reminiscent of a pre-season trial rather than a Round 2 match.
With much criticism surrounding the kicking options of Ben Hunt in Round 1, it was a lovely, flat cut-out pass by the Broncos halfback which set up the winning try through Andrew McCullough inside the final five minutes.
The Broncos struck first in the seventh minute when Matt Gillett ran onto an inside ball from Ben Barba.
The Cowboys' defence had their eyes firmly fixed on Barba as he drifted from left to right across the field, ignoring Gillett’s run back on the inside; it enabled the Broncos' lock to charge through a yawning gap and sprint the remaining 20 metres to score next to the posts.
It didn’t take long for the Cowboys to level the score at 6-all after gaining territory off the back of a play-the-ball penalty conceded by Gillett.
The resulting set saw Test prop James Tamou steamroll his way through Brisbane’s defensive line, delivering the Steeden to Johnathan Thurston who scooted over the line from close range.
After a frantic opening 10 minutes by both sides, the contest lulled midway through the first half with neither side taking the game by the scruff of the neck.
Just as the game looked like reaching a stalemate heading into the break, the Broncos snatched the lead back in the 36th minute.
Josh Hoffman received the ball 10 metres out on the first tackle after the referee ruled six-again and, sensing the Cowboys were short of numbers on the right side, the Broncos five-eighth displayed great vision to roll a perfectly weighted grubber kick behind the line, allowing winger Daniel Vidot to leap onto the ball and score.
Corey Parker narrowly missed the conversion from the sideline, keeping the score at 10-6, which it remained until halftime.
The second stanza started at a sluggish pace with handling errors and a lack of cutting edge in attack the common theme.
It was no surprise that the Cowboys scored from a Broncos mistake after winger Vidot couldn’t control a Robert Lui cross-field bomb, spilling the ball into the path of Gavin Cooper who scored.
Thurston’s conversion was waved away as the scoreboard locked up at 10-10 after 50 minutes.
Two minutes later Josh McGuire presented the Cowboys with a chance to hit the lead for the first time in the match, as his late tackle on Lui allowed Thurston an easy penalty shot from right in front, taking the score out to 12-10 in favour of the visitors.
It appeared the Broncos had hit the front in the 60th minute after Ben Hunt crossed under the sticks, however the referee ruled that Josh McGuire had obstructed Tariq Sims from tackling the Brisbane halfback and the Cowboys were awarded a penalty.
Five minutes later the visitors had multiple cracks at Brisbane’s line and almost crossed through Kane Linnett, but desperate Broncos defence denied the Cowboys centre.
After failing to change out of second gear for the majority of the match, the contest hit full speed inside the last 10 minutes with both sides gaining easy metres up the field.
With six minutes left, the Broncos went on the offensive again and were finally rewarded for their persistence both with and without the ball.
Ben Hunt targeted the short side and delivered a lovely cut-out ball for Dale Copley to charge onto, which broke the Cowboys defence apart and allowed the Broncos centre to draw and pass, finding Andrew McCullough in support who scored under the posts.
Parker added the extras to give the Broncos a 16-12 lead with less than five minutes remaining.
The Cowboys began to throw everything at the Broncos with Thurston involved in every play and almost scoring inside the minute.
However, the desperate Broncos held their nerve and hung on to record a thrilling four-point victory.
Brisbane Broncos 16 (Matt Gillett, Daniel Vidot, Andrew McCullough tries; Corey Parker 2 goals) def. North Queensland Cowboys 12 (Johnathan Thurston, Gavin Cooper tries; Johnathan Thurston 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Half-time: Broncos 10-6. Crowd: 42,303.