If any further evidence was required that the Cowboys-Broncos rivalry is modern-day rugby league’s greatest, the Queensland clubs provided it yet again with a spectacular 90-minute semi-final in Townsville.
The Cowboys prevailed 26-20 after extra-time was required to split the archrivals, with Johnathan Thurston proving the match-winner by setting up Michael Morgan for an 85th-minute try.
To focus solely on that one magical moment would be an injustice to the 2016 season’s finest contest, however, with the 80 minutes of regulation time producing a series of incredible twists.
The Broncos led 8-0 and 14-6 before being reeled in, while the visitors looked to have pulled off a famous upset when Corey Oates scored an unbelievable long-range try with 11 minutes left.
But a fateful tripping penalty against Matt Gillett allowed Thurston to level the scores with little over a minute on the clock, before taking control in the third extra-time game between the sides in four meetings.
The NRL’s decision to revert to 10 minutes of extra-time for finals matches – rather than golden point – received a huge tick, though the Broncos were unable to capitalise on the opportunity to strike back after Morgan’s try, with Darius Boyd fumbling Kyle Feldt’s kick-off in an eerie repeat of Ben Hunt’s grand final gaffe.
Retiring Broncos captain Corey Parker emulated fellow club legends Gorden Tallis (2004) and Petero Civoniceva (2012) in bowing out in a sudden-death final in Townsville.
The Cowboys advance to take on the Sharks in next weekend’s Sydney-hosted preliminary final, but the for now the focus is rightly on both teams who once again conjured a phenomenal game of rugby league that every fan can be proud of.