The Brisbane Broncos and the North Queensland Cowboys. Always fiery, lively and physical. Last night was no different.
There was plenty to play for, as both the Broncos and Cowboys were set to farewell club stalwarts.
In the end, the Cowboys scored bragging rights over the Broncos to confine them to last.
It is the first wooden spoon in the Broncos history but caps off a tumultuous season.
The Cowboys and the Broncos have had a great rivalry over the past few years including a grand final.
Recently, however, it was the Broncos who had the wood on the Cowboys in their most recent meetings.
This showed in the first fifteen minutes with the Broncos well on top.
It only took the Brisbane team three minutes to get the first try of the match.
Tom Dearden kicked into the Cowboys in-goal and a clumsy error from Kyle Feldt saw the ball bobbling on the ground.
Payne Haas followed through and collected the loose ball to crash over for the Broncos to take the early lead.
Kotoni Staggs kicked the relatively easy conversion to have the Broncos up 6-nil.
Staggs, who has been a shining light for the Broncos in 2020 then suffered the unthinkable.
He went down clutching a knee, a confirmed ACL injury and did not return, a big blow for the Broncos.
Only a minute later and from a Cowboys knock-on deep in their own half, the Townsville club was under pressure again.
The pressure proved too much and the milestone man and the retiring veteran Darius Boyd scored his 87th try in his 337th and final game NRL game.
With a play the ball on the Cowboys goal-line, Boyd left the defenders napping from good vision out of dummy half to force his way over.
Isaac Luke took over the kicking duties and he extended the Broncos lead out to 12 due to his successful conversion.
On the half-way mark of the first half, a one on one strip from Jason Taumalolo inside their own half proved to be a big turning point.
The Cowboys worked the play down the field into the Broncos attacking zone.
Scott Drinkwater put in a clever kick for Jake Clifford to follow through.
He out jumped Boyd to run a short distance to score under the posts to get the Cowboys back in the game.
Valentine Holmes kicked the easy conversion to bridge the gap back to six.
Soon after, the Cowboys were denied a try by the bunker due to Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow due to being off-side from a Drinkwater kick on his own ten-metre line.
Feldt would continue his try-scoring form, nabbing his first of his three tries and his 17th of the year.
A right-hand side play by the Cowboys and an excellent cut-out pass by Holmes found an unmarked Feldt on the outside to score an easy try.
Holmes kicked a great sideline conversion to tie the game up at twelve apiece.
With only a few minutes left on the clock in the first stanza, the Broncos were penalised deep in their half due to a high tackle.
Holmes was again was on song with his passing game to deliver a good short ball to Justin O’Neill.
Running the perfect line, O’Neill was able to ground the ball in the in-goal to give the Cowboys a handy 16-12 lead at the break.
It took fifteen minutes for the score to change after half-time and fortunately for the Broncos, it was them who got a try through Corey Oates.
A Cowboys knock on fifteen metres out from their own line would prove costly.
A clever pass by Dearden put the Cowboys defence under pressure and Corey Oates was able to force the ball in the corner.
Luke missed the kicked but the Broncos back in the contest with the scores again locked up, this time at 16-all.
This proved to be the Broncos last score of the game with the Cowboys running away with the match in the remaining 25 minutes.
With plenty of possession and momentum, the Cowboys were able to score again through Feldt just on ten minutes later.
Drinkwater fooled the Broncos defence, as Feldt crossed easily for his second of the match and his 18th of the season.
Holmes kicked the conversion from five metres in from touch.
It was not long later when Feldt registered his hat-trick of tries for the match.
Taumalolo gave the Cowboys great momentum into the Broncos half through from a great run.
Drinkwater kicked in behind the defensive line for a flying Feldt to retrieve the ball to cross again.
Holmes missed the conversion from the touchline but the Cowboys had a commanding lead with less than ten minutes left on the clock.
Tabuai-Fidow who was having an unlucky night due to unforced errors and having tries disallowed was not going to be denied four minutes from full-time.
Holmes retrieved a kick on his goal-line and found open space from a scattered defensive line.
He worked across to the left-hand side of the field to find Tabuai-Fidow on the flank.
The lightning-fast winger was not going to be stopped in open space and he ran 60 metres untouched to score.
This gave the Cowboys an unassailable lead 32-16.
The conversion with four minutes remaining was kicked by Gavin Cooper who was playing his last game for the Cowboys.
The win was just the Cowboys second win at Suncorp Stadium in the past eleven meetings between the two teams.
Peter Gentle lamented his side’s performance after they officially took home the spoon.
“It’s extremely disappointing [to get the wooden spoon]. It is not the finish we wanted,” Gentle said.
“The table doesn’t lie.”
Although all the focus was on Cooper, grand final winner in 2015, John Asiata, was also playing his last game for the Cowboys.
“He is a grand final winner and that, unfortunately, gets lost in Coops’ send-off but it was great to send them both out the right way,” said Cowboys coach Josh Hannay.
“Both clubs are turning over a new chapter in their history and there were two footy sides out there with really young players.
NRL News Player of the Game
3 – Jake Clifford
2 – Scott Drinkwater
1 – Valentine Holmes