In the lead-up to his 30th birthday yesterday, Matt Bowen had to listen to The Macarena repeatedly in the North Queensland Cowboys gym. Whatever dance step it was he put on Brisbane with two minutes left at Suncorp Stadium last night, the fullback gave us the first upset of the new season.
The Cowboys were statistically the worst team in NRL history when they lost 18-0 to Gold Coast in round one but in front of 43,171 fans, they hit the heights when Bowen threw a dummy from the scrumbase and waltzed over for his second try – 1.59 on the clock – to give the Cowboys a 28-26 victory.
“Packing in at lock ... the only option for a back-rower is to run,” Bowen said. “I did that tonight and I came up with a try.
“I got a bit of a shock. I was lucky it was me. Some other bloke would have done the same thing. It’s always good to score the winning try. Against the Broncos is good. It’s even better on my birthday.
“We were terrible last week. The boys had a week to play the way we know we can play.”
Bowen’s birthday wasn’t all beer and skittles. The party got off to a shaky start with some errors, including one that directly led to a Brisbane try in a seesawing match. “Tonight I felt I had some ups and downs but in the end things came my way,” Bowen said.
The Cowboys led 16-8 at halftime, helped by a benefit-of-the doubt try ruling in favour of hooker James Segeyaro – before consecutive Broncos tries put them back in control. That’s when Johnathan Thurston combined with Bowen to lay on a try referee Jason Robinson labelled “classy football’’ over the match officials’ intercom.
Back rower Ben Teo seemed to have provided Brisbane with a victory when he scored in the 70th minute but winger Gerard Beale’s fumble in front of his own posts gave Bowen the chance to be a hero.
“I saw ‘Mango’ [Bowen] get the ball, throw a dummy and go through,” Thurston said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy.
“Hopefully he’s still got a couple of years in him. Everyone knows he has trouble with his knees. That’s when he’s at his best, heads up and attacking the ball.’’
While North Queensland coach Neil Henry could afford to theorise that Bowen “thought he owed us” after a couple of errors, rival Anthony Griffin was disconsolate. “We thought we would win if it didn’t hurt too much,” he said. “If we hang on today, we get beaten next week. I still wouldn’t have been happy.”
Asked if the players had given Bowen a present, co-captain Thurston answered: “He gave us one.”
NORTH QUEENSLAND 28 (M Bowen 2 D Johnson J Segeyaro B Tate tries J Thurston 4 goals) bt BRISBANE 26 (G Beale J McGuire B Te'o J Yow Yeh tries C Parker 5 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Jason Robinson, Gavin Reynolds. Crowd: 43,171.