Broncos win thrilling Queensland derby
The Broncos have booked a home preliminary final after holding out a typically fast-finishing Cowboys side 16-12 in a gripping Queensland derby on Saturday night.
Both sides scored two tries each in front of a Suncorp Stadium crowd of 50,388 as the Broncos held out the desperate Cowboys in the latter stages of the second half.
Brisbane will now play the winner of Week Two's Roosters-Bulldogs match in a home preliminary final, while the Cowboys face the winner of Sunday's Sharks-Rabbitohs clash.
The Broncos' first home final since 2011 was played at a frenetic speed throughout the entire 80 minutes with the home team defending admirably led by Andrew McCullough (64 tackles), Matt Gillett (49 tackles) and Sam Thaiday (42 tackles).
North Queensland held 53 percent of possession at the full-time whistle and ran for almost 500 metres more than the home side, but the Broncos' impregnable defence held tight on yet another occasion this season.
In the first half the Broncos posted first points on the back of a James Tamou error with the hosts earning a penalty in their subsequent set which allowed Parker to slot an easy two after nine minutes.
The Cowboys dominated field position and enjoyed six of the next 10 sets, but like most sides in 2015 they weren't able to pierce Brisbane's desperate goal line defence.
The opening 25 minutes was played at a frantic pace and something had to give, and it took a piece of individual brilliance from Ben Hunt to hand the Broncos their opening try.
Hunt took the line on from 20 metres out and sold an intelligent dummy to Gavin Cooper, who took the bait, allowing Brisbane's halfback to step Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote one-on-one before crossing untouched underneath the posts for an 8-0 lead.
It was the 16th occasion this season where the Cowboys have conceded the opening try.
A knock-down by Mitch Dodds allowed the Cowboys another crack at Brisbane's line but they were denied again and had to settle for a penalty goal to take the score to 8-2.
The visitors piled further pressure on Brisbane during the dying stages of the first half and almost crossing through Kyle Feldt only for the play to be called back for obstruction.
Hunt had a late attempt at a field goal deflected wide which kept the scoreboard at 8-2 at half-time.
The Cowboys opened the scoring the second half off the back of a Brisbane error coming out of their own line.
Johnathan Thurston found former Bronco Antonio Winterstein who stumbled his way over for a try in the south-east corner of Suncorp Stadium in front of the travelling Cowboys' fans.
Thurston's conversion skimmed the far post to keep the Broncos in front by two points in the 48th minute.
The Broncos received a 60th-minute penalty and opted to take the two points through Corey Parker, who extended the lead to four points with a little help from the post.
Brisbane welcomed Kodi Nikorima into the fray on 65 minutes and it only took seconds for the utility to break open the contest with his lighting speed when he found space through the middle of the ruck.
The 21-year-old managed to find Anthony Milford steaming onto the ball in support and Brisbane's five-eighth raced away to plant the ball down under the posts to hand the home team a 10-point lead with 14 minutes to go.
The Cowboys weren't done with yet and soon narrowed the deficit back to four points when Thurston collected a Justin O'Neill grubber for a 71st-minute try.
However, the Broncos managed to hold in in a thrilling final 10 minutes to book their first preliminary final since 2011.
Brisbane Broncos 16 (Ben Hunt, Anthony Milford tries; Corey Parker 4 goals) def. North Queensland Cowboys 12 (Antonio Winterstein, Johnathan Thurston tries; Thurston 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Half-time: Broncos 8-2. Crowd: 50,388.