North Queensland have won their first ever title in beating Brisbane 16-7 in the final of the inaugural Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.
The Cowboys have lauded a strong defensive effort as the key plank that took them to the first piece of significant silverware for their trophy cabinet.
The Cowboys shut-out the previously unstoppable Warriors in their semi-final with a resolute 8-0 victory, before some incredible goal-line defence formed the foundation stone of their 17-6 victory over Brisbane in the Final.
Cowboys coach Paul Green, who brought over one of the biggest sides of the tournament including forwards James Tamou, Jason Taumalolo, Tariq Sims and Gavin Cooper, said he thought he had a side that would suit the format.
"People talk about the Nines beforehand as being a free-flowing attacking game but we really valued our defence, particularly against the Warriors [in the semi-final]," he said.
"They're a big side with plenty of second phase and some quick outside backs with good footwork. We knew that defensive attitude would hold us in good stead and that's what won it for us."
Cowboys captain Gavin Cooper hinted the defensive display was a sign of what's to come from the Cowboys this year.
"We brought our same structures that we'll be playing in Round 1 and right throughout the year over here," he said. "Everyone turning up for each other and working hard for each other [was important].
"We let each other down a little bit in that first game and even against the Warriors in the Pool game. Then against the Warriors in the [semi] final and then against the Broncos there, everyone just kept turning up."
The strong finals performances came after a slow start - the Cowboys won just one of their three Pool games, losing to Manly and the Warriors and beating just Canberra, but scraped through on for and against after the Raiders beat Manly to give the Cowboys their chance.
"The Raiders did us a massive favour beating Manly today but we got our chance and we took it," Green admitted frankly.
The Cowboys put their defensive stamp on the Final early, forcing Bronco Alex Glenn into touch from the first play.
They avoided conceding first points when Brisbane's Sam Thaiday put a foot on the touchline as he passed inside to Ben Hunt who looked to have scored, before opening the scoring themselves from the next set going the length of the field for centre Antonio Winterstein to score. Halfback Robert Lui nailed a rare drop goal sideline conversion to make it 6-0.
Creative ball movement from Anthony Mitchell and Michael Morgan opened up some space in the middle for Curtis Rona to score.
The key passage came soon after the break as he Broncos enjoyed a mountain of possession and numerous repeat sets but the Cowboys scrambled to turn them away time and again. A charging Matt Gillett seemed destined to score but was held up.
The weight of possession finally told with around three minutes remaining as Broncos half Ben Hunt found a way through for a bonus-zone five-point try, which was converted to close the gap to 10-7.
But with their hands finally on the ball the Cowboys quickly shifted the ball wide late in the set for Kane Linnett to make a half break and get the ball back in to Rona, whose second try sealed it for the Cowboys.
Dick Smith gave competition winner Troy Sampson the chance to be an Auckland Nines reporter for the weekend. Check out Troy's experience from behind the scenes at dicksmith9s.com.