Battered Broncos brave in defeat
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has quashed concerns over the health of Origin-bound winger Corey Oates after a head knock kept him out of the second half of Friday night's 19-18 NRL Telstra Premiership loss to the Cowboys.
It was carnage on the Brisbane bench, with Corey Parker the sole available interchange at one point in the game's latter stages.
Oates (concussion), hooker Andrew McCullough (shoulder), bench prop Jarrod Wallace (elbow) and centre Jack Reed (head knock) all suffered injury setbacks amid a thrilling, topsy-turvy second half.
The Broncos will be hurting enough without their State of Origin stars, let alone additional withdrawals, but Bennett allayed fears that any of his non-Origin troops have picked up serious injuries.
"[Oates] has a bit of a head knock but he should be okay," he said.
"Jack Reed came off as well, so they were the major two.
"It had an impact on our performance obviously. It's really hard to replace outside backs today, the way the game is played. But we were brave.
"[McCullough and Wallace] have got bits of problems, but nothing major."
Friday night was yet another thrilling chapter in the NRL's greatest modern-day rivalry.
Described by captain Corey Parker as, "by far the quickest club game we've played this year", the 25,163 in attendance were given yet another thrilling 80 minutes that was made even more special by Johnathan Thurston's 250th game for the Cowboys.
They were first to score through Matt Scott, before Matt Gillett took over the game on both sides of the ball – staking his claim for a starting Origin spot in the process.
Up 18-6 just after half-time, the Broncos started losing men at a rapid rate, giving the typically fast-finishing Cowboys impetus for a comeback.
"I didn't think we'd done enough at 18-6," Bennett said.
"Then they started to get a bit of momentum and got a crucial [call] there where we threw the ball off the ground. If we got 'six-to-go' there it could have been a whole different game.
"They got some momentum off that and controlled the next 20 minutes."
"We've played 240 minutes of football and there's been a point in them; so you can't say one is better than the other.
"It's just the bounce of the ball on the night. A little bit of luck here, a little bit of luck there; a decision here, a decision there. That's the difference right now.
"If the game was fair dinkum, they'd put us on every Friday night. I know the players wouldn't last long, but the fans would love it."