I thought we were coming over the top: Green
Jubilant North Queensland coach Paul Green says he felt like his side was coming home stronger than their opponents in the second half of the 2015 Telstra Premiership Grand Final, but admitted that after waiting until the final second of the game to draw level he'd "rather it not be like that".
The Cowboys battled for fluency in the face of resolute Brisbane defence in what was a try-less second half for all but literally the very last second of play.
Pressure from the clock and the scoreboard, as well as the Brisbane defence, seemed to fluster the Cowboys, who created plenty of attacking chances but failed to drive any home as their four-point deficit began to look larger and larger.
But for a side that won from 30-6 down against Parramatta and stole late wins countless times in 2015 nothing seems impossible, and it was a fact not lost on Green after the game.
"It's probably fitting given how we've played at different times this year. It shows the fighting spirit amongst our team. We know we're never out of a game and tonight was no different," he said.
"I'd rather it not be like that but I'll take it."
In hindsight the Broncos' willingness to kick the ball into touch to slow play down and try and wind the clock down may have been costly, though given their defensive workload the tactic was understandable.
"Obviously they wanted to slow the game down and probably felt that when the ball was in play we were probably finishing over the top of them. I kept saying to them, 'Try and keep the ball in play' because I knew we'd probably get some opportunities," Green said.
"They were trying to slow the game down and they probably felt that if they ran the clock out they probably had it won but we felt we needed to keep it in play.
"If a team starts kicking for touch you think 'we've got them' but there's also the scoreboard pressure and we were probably running out of time there at the end.
"With three minutes to go we knew we'd have two opportunities at them right down to the wire, and eventually we executed and made the most of it."
Those missed opportunities included centre Kane Linnett spilling the ball with the try-line begging, fullback Lachlan Coote being penalised for a double movement after planting the ball down, and five-eighth Michael Morgan being either held up or dragged down short after looking try-bound on countless occasions before his eventual last-gasp magic flick pass to set up the equaliser.
Green revealed the lack of points resulting from all those chances had started to worry him.
"You don't normally get too many opportunities in a grand final or a big game like that. I felt we'd earned a couple of chances and had some try-scoring opportunities and to bomb them I was a bit worried about it to be honest," he said.
"I knew in that back part of the game we were finishing over the top of them but I was just worried we were going to run out of time. Morgo executed well and Feldty put the icing on the cake. It was a good way to finish."
Club captain Johnathan Thurston had a similar assessment.
"I felt we were coming over them towards the back end of that game but we probably lost our structure a little bit," Thurston said.
"We didn't convert some of the opportunities that we had so we just needed to keep the ball alive there and not die with it. I saw Morgo there with a bit of space and threw him the ball and said, 'go on your way son.'"