We have just witnessed possibly the greatest final in NRL history. The North Queensland Cowboys left their run till as late as possible against a valiant Brisbane Broncos, winning 17-16 in Golden Point Extra Time.
By Julian Clarkstone
The two Queensland teams played at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, in front of a packed house of 82,758 fans.
The Broncos got out of the blocks quickly after Corey Parker kicked a penalty goal, which was immediately followed by a length of the field try to Corey Oates thanks to some outstanding lead up work from Adam Blair and Anthony Milford.
The Cowboys struck back just as quickly with a short burst from Jake Granville off a scrum feed, who then put Justin O’Neill over just next to the uprights. The score was beating the clock with 14 points being scored in around 10 minutes of play.
The Cowboys struck once again, and once again it was thanks to some crafty work from Jake Granville out of dummy half. His cut out pass to James Tamou saw the front rower beat Sam Thaiday in a one on one tackle, yet again scoring next to the posts, giving the Cowboys a 12-8 lead.
The last try before the half came off Jonathan Thurston dropping the ball whilst being tackled. Matt Gillett scooped up the ball for the Broncos, beat Ben Hannant and then passed the ball to Jack Reed, which was converted and gave the Broncos a half time lead of 14-12.
The match then became much more of a grind in the second half, with teams going toe-to-toe for forty minutes. The Cowboys failed to capitalise on some major opportunities, with Kane Linnett dropping a pass from Thurston which was only slightly misdirected. Then Lachlan Coote’s double movement was another missed opportunity, with the Cowboys trailing by 4 points with minutes remaining.
A penalty to the Cowboys saw them march up the field with a minute to go. With their final roll of the dice, Thurston ran the ball to his left, where he was met by rushing defense. He beat two tackles, and looked somewhat alone when he decided to pass to Michael Morgan in the hope of creating something out of nothing. Morgan dashed across to the right, towards the wing, stuck his arm out between two defenders and flicked a pass to Kyle Feldt, who scored in the corner – 16 all.
Thurston’s attempt at goal was after the full-time siren, with the chance to win the match off his boot. The conversion felt like it took a life time. As Thurston kicked the ball, it didn’t have the perfect connection, but looked set to curl in, although it did not curl enough, hitting the post and sending the game into extra time. The setting had a similar feeling to the 1989 Grand Final between Canberra and Balmain, where Balmain’s Benny Elias’ kicked a drop goal which hit the crossbar after looking on target, where they went on to lost the match.
Extra time began just as crazily as regular time finished, with Ben Hunt dropping the kick off in a heart wrenching moment for Hunt and Broncos fans. It took the Cowboys only a few plays to seal the match thanks to a field goal from Thurston, delivering the North Queensland Cowboys their first ever NRL premiership.
Jonathan Thurston was later awarded the Clive Churchill Medal for being the man of the match, in a clash that will go down as one of the best and most dramatic in history
USA Rugby League would like to congratulate the Cowboys on their maiden premiership, and would like to thank both teams for the outstanding display of Rugby League, creating an amazing spectacle for fans watching at the stadium and around the world watching via television or online.