The North Queensland Cowboys have produced their best performance of the season to beat the Brisbane Broncos 34-30 at 1300Smiles Stadium and spoil Sam Thaiday's 300th game celebrations.
In a bizarre match which featured an eight-point try to Bronco Matt Lodge and a 55-metre penalty goal by Cowboys superboot Kyle Feldt, the home side turned an 18-16 halftime into a heart-stopping four-point win, just their sixth of the season.
The Cowboys shot out of the blocks to lead 14-2 after 18 minutes thanks to tries to Gideon Gela-Mosby and Jason Taumalolo.
Gela-Mosby's four-pointer came when he chased through a pinpoint grubber by Te Maire Martin, while Taumalolo scored after he pounced on a loose ball which Darius Boyd had spilled in a heavy tackle by Jake Clifford and Martin.
The Broncos then hit back through a runaway James Roberts intercept try before the Lodge eight-point try turned the game on its head.
Match: Cowboys v Broncos
Round 22 -
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
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As Lodge dived across for the try in the 24th minute, Martin slid in with his knees and collected the Broncos prop in the head. Referee Grant Atkins had no hesitation in awarding the eight-point try and the Broncos had a 16-14 lead.
A Thurston penalty levelled the scores before Feldt stepped up on the stroke of halftime to give the Cowboys the lead with his long-range bomb from his own side of halfway.
Both sides fell into the arm-wrestle early in the second half, before the Broncos found attacking field position off a Taumalolo shoulder charge, and another penalty goal to Isaako levelled the scores.
The Broncos then clicked into gear. Korbin Sims crashed over in the 54th minute before young gun Tevita Pangai finished off great lead-up work by Kodi Nikorioma four minutes later to take the lead out to 30-18.
Pangai was a sight to behold in full flight and he ran around Martin easily to give the Broncos what appeared to be a match-winning lead.
The return of Taumalolo, who ran for 287 metres, Matt Scott and Jordan McLean breathed life into the Cowboys, and a penalty put them in attacking position.
A shift to the right hand side and a brilliant pass by Justin O'Neill put Feldt across in the corner to make the score 30-22.
The comeback was well and truly alive when Gavin Cooper stormed over in the next set, the successful conversion getting the Cowboys within two.
The pace only seemed to increase as the game wore on and it was the Cowboys who found extra reserves of energy to put themselves in position to snatch an unlikely win.
The home crowd erupted in the 77th minute when the maestro Thurston's grubber kick took a wicked bounce over Anthony Milford's hands and Coen Hess pounced on the ball to score the match-winner.
The Broncos have now lost two in a row against sides outside the eight and face a tough fortnight with matches against the Rabbitohs in round 23 and Roosters in round 24.
News & Notes: Sam Thaiday became the third Bronco to play 300 games after Darren Lockyer and Corey Parker... The loss won't threaten the Broncos' position in the top eight but if the Warriors win Brisbane will slip to eighth on the ladder... The match was the 50th between the two great rivals, with the Cowboys winning 16, the Broncos 32 and two draws... Crowd: 19,663.