As Queensland rivals the Cowboys and the Broncos prepare for their sixth finals derby – and their fifth in five seasons – Flashback Friday is chronicling the heavyweights’ post-season history against one another.
The ledger stands at 4-1 in the Cowboys’ favour, while Broncos captain Corey Parker will be aiming to avoid following in the footsteps of former teammates and fellow club legends Gorden Tallis and Petero Civoniceva, whose NRL careers both ended via sudden-death finals losses in Townsville.
Semi-Final, 2004 – Cowboys ride high at home to buck Broncos
North Queensland’s fairytale journey through its maiden finals campaign reaped the club’s first-ever win over Brisbane in 17 attempts, rolling the Broncos 10-0 in a gripping semi with a delirious 24,989-strong crowd in attendance at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Cowboys pivot David Myles scored in the 25th minute after Karmichael Hunt misjudged a chip kick by his opposing fullback Matt Bowen; it would be the only try of the match, with Josh Hannay slotting a penalty goal either side of the decisive play. But it was magnificent defence that underpinned the victory – the only time in the Cowboys’ underachieving history they had held a team scoreless. The Broncos’ loss brought down the curtain on the career of retiring captain – and Townsville junior – Gorden Tallis.
Qualifying Final, 2012 – Cowboys despatch listless Broncos
Halfback Michael Morgan scored three tries, but club legend Matt Bowen was the star of the show in his 250th NRL appearance with a try, a hand in two others and a field goal in North Queensland’s comprehensive 33-16 defeat of archrivals Brisbane. Former Broncos great Brent Tate also crossed the victorious Cowboys. The Cowboys led 18-0 at halftime, and despite three second half tries to the visitors, a miracle comeback was never a realistic chance; the Broncos’ lacklustre campaign met a fitting end as revered front-row veteran Petero Civoniceva farewelled the premiership.
Qualifying Final, 2014 – NQ holds on after stirring Brisbane fight-back
North Queensland advanced to the second week of the finals with a 32-20 victory over Brisbane, but only after withstanding an admirable second half comeback by the visitors. The qualifying final seemed destined to travel a similar path to the corresponding match two years earlier, the Cowboys racing to a 24-0 halftime lead – with backrower Gavin Cooper crossing twice – as Johnathan Thurston and Robert Lui toyed with the Broncos’ goal-line defence, which consistently buckled. But Ben Barba scored a fine try from close range, before fullback Justin Hodges set up centre Jordan Kahu for two touchdowns with sizzling breaks to reduce the deficit to 10 points with 21 minutes left. Tariq Sims was put on report and ultimately rubbed out for five weeks for a late shoulder-charge on Hodges in the lead-up to Kahu’s second, stunting the subsequent impact of the veteran Bronco. Michael Morgan crossed for a try and a Thurston penalty apparently put the game out of reach, but the Broncos refused to throw the towel, staying in the contest when Daniel Vidot scored from a brilliant Dale Copley offload. The Cowboys managed to hold out their Queensland rivals, however, ending Broncos coach Anthony Griffin’s four-year tenure with the club.
Qualifying Final, 2015 – Broncos prevail in top-four battle
Brisbane held off archrivals North Queensland 16-12 in a pulsating 2 v 3 showdown at Suncorp Stadium. A sizzling solo try by Ben Hunt gave the Broncos an 8-0 lead, but the Cowboys posted their first try through Antonio Winterstein straight after halftime to cut the deficit to two points. Kodi Nikorima made a bust to send fellow livewire Anthony Milford away in the 65th minutes, before Johnathan Thurston latched onto a Justin O’Neill kick to set up a grandstand finish. The cool-headed Broncos saw out the remaining eight minutes, however, to book a prelim berth.
Grand Final, 2015 – Cowboys triumph in greatest of all grand finals
The 2015 grand final was historic in myriad ways, with the first all-Queensland decider producing the maiden golden point grand final and a breakthrough premiership for the Cowboys. Corey Oates streaked away to finish a 95-metre movement for the Broncos in just the seventh minute, but Cowboys hooker Jake Granville laid on tries for Justin O’Neill and James Tamou to give the northerners a 12-8 lead in the 25th minute. A Johnathan Thurston error saw Jack Reed cross six minutes out from the break, while Jordan Kahu’s penalty just after halftime pushed the score out to 16-12. It remained that way until the last play of regulation time, when Thurston and Michael Morgan conjured an unbelievable try for Kyle Feldt in the corner. Thurston’s conversion attempt thudded agonisingly into the post, but after opposite number Ben Hunt dropped the extra-time kick-off, JT slotted the title-winning field goal to end what most pundits described as the best grand final ever played.