In a game that flowed wildly back and forth all night, North Queensland had the final surge at just the right moment. Matt Bowen celebrates his 30th birthday with a match-winning try in the 79th minute under the posts to bury Brisbane 28-26. Bowen had a bit of everything tonight; dropping balls, letting in tries. But he won't care now, ending a great game with some vintage magic and a memorable double.
The Broncos had a strangehold on this one two minutes from home but a turnover from Gerard Beale gave Bowen all the room he needed. The fact he scored from the scrum will infuriate the Brisbane coaching staff. Brisbane were poor in the first half, conceding seven penalties, and that's where the root of their demise can be found as they trailed 16-8 at the break.
FULLTIME Cowboys 28 Broncos 26.
79th min Bowen has dropped balls cold, conceded tries, fumbled, caught brilliant ones and finishes one of the most topsy-turvy individual games you will ever see with a try to win it. Literally took it from the scrum as lock, picked it up and sprinted away. Thurston converts and the Cowboys are going to win this one 28-26.
78th min Gavin Cooper is essentially a tackling bag at the moment. Getting demolished at every run. And now a mistake from Beale - this is the chance for the Cowboys. They will feed the scrum 27m out and Bowen is over! TRY under the posts right from the scrum. Incredible!
76th min Oh no! Ashton Sims drops it! Very brave of them to throw him the ball at this point in the game on this ground. Huge relief for the Broncos as they set the scrum 15m out from their line. That's a bad mistake from the big man.
75th min Veteran smarts from Bowen. Rolls it in, chases and pins Hoffman back in his line to earn the restart. They can build some pressure now. Very tense finish coming up. Broncos cling to a 26-22 lead.
73rd min Good take from Yow Yeh. Stood his ground at the back and hammered for his effort but that's the sort of courage needed at this point. Cowboys far from gone, I might add. They've been able to open Brisbane up at points tonight and can do it again. They get the midfield scrum feed here.
70th min Parker on target again and it's 26-22 to the Broncos.
69th min TRY to Brisbane! Talent indeed. Ben Te'o scampers over after they had the Cowboys shot to bits on the right. Wallace and Hoffman made the initial breaks, then Norman did very well this time to chime in, find Hodges who turned it back to Te'o for the try. Broncos back in front 24-22 with a conversion en route.
68th min A good set from Brisbane but Norman just stands back and hoists it somewhere into the air. Easily taken. They are devoid of a plan at the end of sets at the moment Brisbane. Still, they are only trailing 22-20 and there's enough talent out there to get home.
65th min Bad mistake from the captain. Thaiday on the cahrge three metres out and drops it as he gets to his feet to play the ball. Some Cowboys near the ruck but you have to do better than that. Brisbane just lacking some poise and polish here.
63rd min Now Brisbane are the side looking out of puff. Lots of dummy half runs, lots of hands on hips, lots of swarming Cowboys tacklers. They finish the set with another hopeful but fairly aimless bomb and get lucky - Bowen fumbles it on the return. He's blown hot and cold tonight. Cowboys lead 22-20.
60th min One of the stark differences of a Brisbane side minus Lockyer is kicking options. He always had a plan late in the count but there hasn't been much of that tonight. Corey Norman has rolled most of his too long and over the deadball line. Really needs to work on his touch and summation of what's in front of him. In saying that, he's been ok tonight and improving. Tough gig.
57th min That kick from Thurston snaked over and the Cowboys are back in front, leading 22-20. The momentum shifts in this game have been wild to say the least.
55th min TRY Cowboys. And a good one too. Best of the night. The Old Firm weave some magic. Thurston dummies, breaks the line, finds Bowen, who shows pace like it's the 90s to beat the fullback and dive over. Electric. It's 20-all as Thurston lines up the kick.
53rd min Ouch. Alex Glenn buries Segeyaro and the young rake loses the ball on the Brisbane 40m line. Crowd tonight is 43,171.
50th min Winterstein loses it this time and Brisbane go very close, only to see Wallace fumble in the tackle with the line beckoning. The Cowboys desperately need to march this out of danger and try to match the intensity level of Brisbane, which has clearly lifted in the second half.
49th min Parker is going all Mike Harris. Perfect for the season and kicks another one from the sideline. Brisbane have turned this one on its head and lead 20-16 after a forgettable first half.
47th min TRY Brisbane. Jack Reed puts it on a platter for Beale on the left wing. Taps it down and some good possession has them off and running. It's 18-16 as Parker lines up the kick.
45th min It's all going wrong for the Cowboys. Getting sliced to ribbons in the middle, concede a penalty 25m out and now all the numbers are starting to fall off their jerseys. When it rains, it pours.
42nd min Incredible start. Wallace kicked, Bowen gathered and scurried around 10m out before dropping it in the tackle. Josh McGuire grabbed it and scores under the sticks. TRY. And suddenly it's 16-14 to the Cowboys. What a funny, funny old game.
41st min We're back on deck and I'd imagine the Broncos were given a decent spray during the break from Coach Griffin. And it's worked! TRY Brisbane!
HALFTIME The Cowboys have turned their form around from last week and are well in control of this game, leading 16-8 over the Broncos at halftime with tries to Johnson, Segeyaro and Tate. Jharal Yow Yeh has the try for Brisbane. The Broncos are being pinged relentlessly at the tackle and will be no chance if they can't improve their discipline. An upset brewing here. Dim Sim O'Clock for me - see you in a few moments for round two.
39th min Penalty number seven to the Cowboys. Right in front, 45m out, but Thurston wants a crack at the line. He'd be no chance from in front in any case given his curveball. The Cowboys go close but Graham BOMBS a try! Dire! Right to the chest and all he had to do was put it down in the corner!
38th min The Broncos manage to cover that but haven't set foot past midfield for a while. Another average set as the clock counts down to end the first half. Time to step up Corey Norman and take some control.
36th min Another penalty to the Cowboys. Brisbane getting whistled out of this game at the moment. Penalty count is 6-3 to the Cowboys. Shoddy discipline from a usually well-drilled outfit. North Queensland will fancy themselves again before the break.
35th min That's an ugly old kick from Thurston and it remains 16-8 to the Cowboys.
34th min Sensational jump and bat back from Graham and Tate has scored for the Cowboys surely. They've gone to the video but this will get the green light. Bowen kicked it across and Graham pushed it back over his head, off the hands of Beale and right to Tate, who scooted over. TRY it is. It's 16-8 with a kick pending.
33rd min Beale foils the pass to Graham and saves a try but gives up another set on the Brisbane line.
31st min Big Petero has his legs taped up like he's about to jump in a line-out. There's a Reds game here tomorrow night if he wants to hang around. Penalty now to the Cowboys and the game has taken a surprise turn. And another penalty for a high shot from Wallace off the tap. Pressure right on the Broncos now.
29th min Thurston is right in front and kicks the extras to give the Cowboys a surprise 12-8 lead at Suncorp. Brisbane will be fuming at that decision. They may have a case.
28th min Hoffman looks to have lost this kick and James Segeyaro has picked it up and dived over. He may have been offside from the original Thurston kick... they are having a good look. Segeyaro may have fumbled as well. Very tough either way this one. But it's a TRY to the Cowboys. They lead 10-8 and that will be talked about later. Benefit of the doubt and there was plenty.
27th min Just as I give Brisbane the edge, they fall off a few easy tackles but a good grab from Yow Yeh on the cross-kick gets his side out of trouble. Brisbane still lead 8-6 but some cheap possessions have been costly. And an appeal for a try from the Cowboys... hold tight.
23rd min Former Bronco Ashton Sims, who you may remember from a certain dropped ball in a certain final, gives away the penalty right in front and Parker is instructed by Thaiday to knock it over. He dutifully obeys and Brisbane lead 8-6. I get the feeling they are starting to just get on top of this one. Cowboys need to unearth some disciplined sets here.
20th min The Cowboys can't control the pace of the ruck at the moment and I think they are going to suffer for it as this game goes on. Brisbane has a platoon of young mobile backrowers who can run all day, so they'll love this if they play their cards correctly. And here's Civoniceva - hearty applause.
17th min The Cowboys hold on there but only just. Hannant nearly crashed over as Brisbane throw quick, short passes around the ruck. They'll try that all night. This game is lightning fast and Bowen nearly scores! Lovely feet but the final pass goes straight to Peter Wallace. Still 6-6.
15th min Easy rumbles forward from Brisbane on the restart with Hannant and Parker carving out metres. And they get the penalty as McCullough gets a knock as he tries to pass from dummy half. Another big chance here.
13th min Lovely kick and it's 6-6.
12th min TRY Brisbane. Swift work to the right and Yow Yeh dives over in the corner after the long (unintentional) bounce pass from Thaiday. Gets a late knee for his trouble from Bowen but nothing dire. On his feet and Parker will have this from the sideline.
10th min Brisbane swing it wide and Hodges is just short. Great scramble on the line from the Cowboys. And now Graham plucks the bomb out of the air and they hold the fort. Nice work. Nth Qld lead 6-0.
8th min Brisbane get the penalty as Tate holds down Jack Reed, a young man who has insprired an entire generation of Bribie Island bricklayers with big dreams. Allan Langer heavily involved now for Brisbane as they mount an attack, which ends in a fizzle. Cowboy ball.
6th min Neil Henry can't believe how easy that was. Sitting in the box laughing. Johnson just ambled onto the cut-out pass and literally jogged over. Awful, awful defence from the Broncos. We're talking Miley Cyrus covering Smells Like Teen Spirit awful. It's 6-0 to the visitors.
5th min TRY Cowboys. Dallas Johnson right under the posts. It's 4-0.
4th min Scratch that. Brisbane turned it over. Nothing to see here. Move along. Still 0-0. And now a penalty to the Cowboys - they are on a roll.
3rd min And a mistake here from Bowen but can't be too harsh about this. Went up to contest the Wallace bomb and there were numbers contesting it for Brisbane. Coughed it up and the Broncos get a very good early look at the line.
1st minute And eventually we get started here in Brisbane. Broncos kick off, Cowboys catch it and are yet to make an error. And they've managed to complete their first set. What a turnaround.
7.35pm Broncos players being introduced on the screen now, including Alex Glenn, who has a brilliant first-name last-name. He's the new Nick Kenny, who was the captain of my all-NRL First-name Last-name team before retiring to work in the North Queensland mines.
7.30pm If you want to follow the other game tonight, SMH sports editor Ben Coady is covering the Manly-Tigers game and providing musical influences from the great city of Leeds.
7.15pm Like stats? I'll give you stats. Nothing says sexy like 'completion rates' but the Cowboys had precious few completions last week. They finished just 16 of 38 sets against the Titans and made 27 errors with the ball. The replay was later given an R 18+ rating it was so gruesome. You'd suspect that would improve tonight in perfect conditions. For Brisbane, captain Sam Thaiday plays his 150th first grade game for the Broncos. It's his 149th NRL game but ticks over to 150 top grade games because of the 2007 World Club challenge. So there you go.
7.02pm Changes for North Queensland see Cory Paterson in, with Glenn Hall not traveling with, can you believe, a boil on his leg. Stand clear. It's as per program for the Broncos, with Petero Civoniceva making his return in Brisbane colours from the bench. It's been a topic of some debate this week but surely it's not surprising. He missed round one and is in the final season of his career, so it seems perfectly reasonable he may play a lesser role in terms of starting sides in 2012.
7pm Good evening folks for this round two game in Brisbane, which is opening night for the Broncos who were away to start the season against the Eels with a win. The Cowboys started the season with, er, well they took the field against the Titans but stopped there. Brisbane warm favourites tonight on the day Darren Lockyer's statue was unveiled outside the great ground. Even with their retired captain frozen in carbonate outside, they should be too good in the Queensland derby. Team updates on the way.