Broncos bounce back to beat Cowboys
The Brisbane Broncos have defeated the North Queensland Cowboys 20-10 at 1300SMILES Stadium, with Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima carving up the Cowboys' left edge in the first half.
But the Broncos have been handed a host of injury concerns heading into the finals, with Darius Boyd and Tevita Pangai Junior both failing to complete the match due to hamstring injuries.
It was the Broncos who took first advantage of the fast-paced flow of the game after North Queensland hooker Jake Granville knocked on at dummy-half. Milford weaved his magic on fifth tackle, dodging an attempted tackle before putting in a tiny grubber which he recollected, before offloading to James Roberts who sent a brilliant flick pass to Matt Gillett out wide to score out wide.
The Cowboys were punished for another poor attacking set, with the Broncos rolling up the field before Kodi Nikorima decided to go left to test out Javid Bowen and Te Maire Martin. He found success before kicking back inside to Roberts who dived over under the posts.
The scenario on the Cowboys' left edge began to look dire, with a Nikorima bomb finding Jordan Kahu in the air, and the winger stretched out through the tackle to plant the ball down and extend the Broncos' lead to 14-0.
The home side began to mount some pressure with consecutive sets, and visitors cracked when Jason Taumalolo got a full head of steam up and man-handled Tautau Moga, before Morgan delivered a Johnathan Thurston-like pass to send Gavin Cooper crashing over to score.
A penalty against Antonio Winterstein for running a kick-chaser off his line gave the Broncos another opportunity to attack only minutes before half-time. They took a repeat set, Milford's grubber cleaned up by Kyle Feldt.
There was a major blow for the Broncos in the dying seconds of the half when Boyd went down clutching him hamstring, and he didn't return after the half-time break.
The Cowboys heaped on the pressure early in the second half, forcing multiple goal-line dropouts, but Brisbane's defence held firm and they were first to strike after the break.
After forcing repeat sets of their own, with Ben Hunt trapping North Queensland in goal twice, the Broncos wore the Cowboys' defence down and broke through when Adam Blair took a short ball to crash over next to the posts and extend Brisbane's lead.
Despite taking three consecutive sets the Cowboys still failed to cross the line, eventually relieving the pressure when Morgan's pass to Cooper was once again put down.
The Cowboys eventually crossed the line, but not until the 80th minute, and it was a Morgan cut-out pass to Feldt which eventually broke the Broncos' defence, although it was too-little too-late.
Broncos 20 (Matt Gillett, James Roberts, Jordan Kahu, Adam Blair tries, Jordan Kahu 3 goals) def. Cowboys 10 (Gavin Cooper, Kyle Feldt tries; Ethan Lowe 1 goal) at 1300 Smiles Stadium. Half-time: 14-6. Crowd 23,321.