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Kings of the North: Cowboys carve up Broncos to underline Queensland supremacy

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Editor
2nd July, 2022
27

The Cowboys have underlined their top four credentials by comfortably winning the Queensland Derby 40-26 in a high scoring affair in Townsville.

The Broncos were no match for a clinical, committed Cowboys side that built pressure all through the first half and cashed in late.

North Queensland had 63% possession before the break, most of it in the Broncos end, and it was testament to the resilience that Kevin Walters has instilled in this side that they were able to keep the score respectable. Sadly for his side, the weight of tackling in the legs told.

Reece Robson, Jeremiah Nanai and Griffin Neame were able to score tries that otherwise might been seen as soft, but with the amount of extra defence that the Broncos had done, particularly on their own line, it was perhaps forgiveable.

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North Queensland had a late collapse themselves, with two tries in the last ten minutes that gave the Broncos a sniff, but the cue was well in the rack by then.

Their performance from the 20th to the 70th minute was near perfect: 100% completion, near double running metres and just shy of 70% of the territory.

Jason Taumalolo was again excellent, as was Scott Drinkwater at fullback. It is still baffling that the Cowboys began the season with him in reserve grade.

Brisbane lost Te Maire Martin after half an hour, forcing Selwyn Cobbo to fullback, but he continued his rich vein of form and, surely, that will be his position long term.

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Payne Haas, heavily needled, punched out 67 minutes and topped the tackle count in the middle, but both halves had off nights and failed to shift the momentum of field position adequately. 14 errors were spread across the team, which will never help in that regard.

The first half was punctuated by several kamikaze moments from both sides. The Cowboys might have opened the scoring through the returning Kyle Feldt, but instead, gifted the first points to their opponents.

Peta Hiku took a carry in yardage, but inexplicably decided to offload rather than take an easy tackle. His pass missed everyone and as it bounced towards the North Queensland line, Chad Townsend dove straight over the top of it. Billy Walters touched down for the easiest of tries.

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The Broncos returned the favour almost immediately. They tried to shift coming out of their own end and Reynolds’ long pass was so easily telegraphed that Murray Taulagi picked it off and trotted under the posts.

Reynolds’ nightmare start continued. He sent the kick off out on the full, and when the Cowboys forced a repeat set from the resulting good ball, the veteran halfback sent the drop out straight out too. Valentine Holmes added the easy two points.

The Broncos would hit back in similar fashion. Ezra Mam’s route to recover a chip and chase was blocked off and penalised, so Reynolds took the two points himself and locked the scores again.

Mam then took his chance to heap pressure on his own team. Under little pressure, his long kick sailed well over the touchline and gave North Queensland more good ball.

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It looked like they had dropped the football straight back, however, but challenged the call and won a penalty for a strip. Holmes, again, took the two on offer.

The chaos continued. The Broncos survived a few close scares before a kick popped up for stand-in fullback Cobbo, who raced 60m before being caught. Mam saw space and kicked, but Hiku intervened ahead of Corey Oates to stop the danger.

With time running down on the half, Neame laid out Kobe Hetherington with a hefty tackle and gave one last opportunity to the Cowboys, but they could not take it.

The Broncos had withstood 25 tackles in their own 20m in the first half – while registering zero of their own – and would have been happy to have got to the break just two points behind.

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The second half started in the same vein and Brisbane couldn’t cope. The dam broke via a classic try built by pressure, with Neame able to turn in traffic and get over the line from close range.

Jordan Riki then heaped more tackling on his team, attempting an offload early in the set in yardage, and from the resultant field position, Drinkwater unleashed an inch perfect rainbow pass to Feldt to canter in.

The Broncos sparked into action, managed to generate some field position and were immediately able to generate points. When they came, it was a simple backline move that saw Oates able to dot down untouched.

The pressure did not last. The Cowboys returned with a vengeance, Robson the man to nip in from close range through tired tacklers.

The next in was Nanai – what is a Cowboys game without him scoring these days – and while Oates and Cobbo scored late to make the finish interesting, but Taulagi would close the scoring to send the locals home happy.

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