The NRL season opener for Queensland was played to a packed house with over 50,000 people in attendance. With a similar crowd expected for Sunday's Titans v Dragons clash, old Lang Park could easily top the 100,000 mark for rugby league fans at the one venue this weekend.
The Cowboys lived up to atmosphere of the evening with some sizzling attacking raids early in the first half. A penalty goal followed by a try to centre Ashley Graham gave the visitors a 6-0 lead after just nine minutes.
But Brisbane struck back soon after though prop Dane Carlaw, set up by hooker Shaun Berrigan who darted from dummy half for Carlaw to put the Broncos just two points behind.
The Cowboys went further ahead when Taree junior and centre Mark Henry ran onto a kick from five eighth Johnathan Thurston. Thurston's conversion put the North Queenslanders 12-4 in front.
Five eighth Darren Lockyer kept the Broncos in touch with a penalty goal in the 33rd minute.
A sensational attacking movement down the right side and a second try to Graham on the stroke of half time sent shivers through the Brisbane faithful.
At half time, the Cowboys held a handy 16-6 lead.
The Broncos lifted a gear in the second half following a tremendous run by Karmichael Hunt - normally at fullback, Hunt was named earlier in the week at half back. In a brilliant solo effort, Hunt burst through to score in the corner with Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen desperate in cover defence.
Midway through the second half the Broncos were in again through centre Joel Moon. A successful conversion from Lockyer locked the scores up at 16-all.
But that was as close the home side would get to taking a lead on the scoreboard.
A try and field goal to Matty Bowen gave the Cowboys victory late in the match, both sides well spent following a highly entertaining encounter.
The loss for the Broncos was compounded with news that forward Corey Parker was diagnosed with a dislocated wrist and is expected to be sidelined for a number of weeks.
Lockyer Injured in other post match news, Broncos skipper Darren Lockyer has reportedly suffered an ankle injury and may be outed for several weeks.
AAP reports that scans have cleared the Queensland and Australia captain of any break, but his sprain is bad enough to suggest he could miss between four and six weeks.
Brisbane Broncos (16) Tries: Dane Carlaw, Karmichael Hunt, Joel Moon Goals: Darren Lockyer (2/4) North Queensland Cowboys (23) Tries: Ashley Graham (2), Mark Henry, Matthew Bowen Field Goals: Jason Smith (0/1), Matthew Bowen (1/1) Goals: Johnathan Thurston (3/4)
Venue: Suncorp Stadium Crowd: 50,416 Referee: Steve Clark
League Unlimited Commentary:
Huge crowd filing into Lang Park and a fantastic atmosphere in Brisbane. Players and fans enjoying a warm night of 24 degrees and humidity at 69%. Close on 50,000 people expected for the 'local derby' between the Broncos and the Cowboys. Curtain raiser between Aspley Broncos and the NQ Young Guns saw a 22-12 win to the Young Guns. Kick off in the big one only minutes away...
0 min: Massive cheer as the players come onto the field!
1 min: KICKOFF!
18 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Mark Henry survives video ref scrutiny for grounding after a Thurston kick. TRY to the Cowboys. Follows knock-on from Lockyer at the scrum. Thurston conversion comes around nicely and is successful! North Queensland Cowboys 12-4
18 min: NEWS - Corey Parker (Broncos) comes off with a suspected broken arm.
33 min: PENALTY GOAL Brisbane Broncos Drama as Sione Faumuina is penalised but claims he was eye-gouged by Brisbane's Tonie Carroll. Something to look at later. Broncos get the penalty and Lockyer slots the goal. North Queensland Cowboys 12-6
40 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Graham gets a double after a sensational attacking movement down the right hand side, started with a kick over the top from Thurston, Matty Bowen got involved, and it ended with Graham sliding over in the corner. Conversion attempt unsuccessful. North Queensland Cowboys 16-6
HALF TIME - Cowboys 16-6
Half time news - Corey Parker diagnosed with a dislocated wrist. Not a break but he'll be out for a few weeks at least.
48 min: Cowboys playing all over the Broncos with Brenton Bowen running onto a pass from Matt Bowen to 'score', only to be called back for controversial forward pass.
51 min: Brenton Bowen running for the line again but play is again called back following forward pass / knock-on. Some tough calls going against the Cowboys. Crowd is reportedly a ground record: 50,416
55 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos Tremendous run by Karmichael Hunt to score in the corner. Matt Bowen desperate in cover defence but video ref gives benefit of the doubt to the Broncos. In the end, a briiliant solo effort from Hunt. Lockyer misses conversion attempt. North Queensland Cowboys 16-10
62 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos Joel Moon scores after Tonie Carroll has to pivot and spin in the one movement to offload to Moon. Lockyer locks it up with the conversion, Broncos have lifted and we're in for tremendous closing stanza! 16 all
68 min: ATTEMPTED FIELD GOAL North Queensland Cowboys Jason Smith misses a field goal attempt. 16 all
76 min: TRY North Queensland Cowboys Matty Bowen into space, puts the step on Hunt and scores what could be the match winner. Conversion attempt by Johnathan Thurston successful. North Queensland Cowboys 22-16
80 min: An impressive 23-16 victory to the Cowboys. A highly entertaining match which could have gone either way mid way through the second half.
LEAGUEUNLIMITED.COM POTM: 3 - M Bowen (Cowboys) 2- J Thurston (Cowboys) 1 - K Hunt (Broncos)