Five years on from their Grand Final clash, the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys faced off as the 16th and 14th placed sides, battling to avoid the wooden spoon.
After an early error from Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, the Broncos attacked from 20-metres out.
On the last, Tommy Dearden kicked to the left-side and Kyle Feldt failed to claim the ball which bounced back towards Payne Haas who picked up and grounded for the opening score.
Just after the ten minute mark, the Broncos lost Kotoni Staggs to a serious looking knee injury.
However, three minutes later, they had scored again.
Darius Boyd, on his last game, picked the ball up from dummy-half and burrowed his way over.
In the 20th minute, the Cowboys hit back.
Scott Drinkwater kicked high towards Boyd, but was outjumped by Jake Clifford, who landed, twisted, and slid under the posts to score.
The scores were soon level after yet another kick from Drinkwater.
From his own 10-meter line, Drinkwater kicked in behind for Tabuai-Fidow to race onto.
Coates failed to gather, and the winger picked up and raced away to score under the posts.
However, the winger was deemed offside from the kick.
Just before the half hour mark, the Cowboys grabbed their second try.
A swooping play from the right over to the right allowed Kyle Feldt on the wing who slid over for his 17th try of the season.
After putting the Broncos under more pressure, North Queensland took the lead.
Another sweeping move to the right didn’t quite find Feldt, as Justin O’Neill took the ball flat and ran hard through Herbie Farnworth for the score just a minute before the break.
HALF-TIME: Brisbane Broncos 12-16 North Queensland Cowboys
With the game hanging in the balance, both sides look to take a firmer grip on the contest.
The Broncos were given the chance to do this following a failed short goal-line drop-out from Valentine Holmes but Feldt managed to tidy up Boyd’s fifth tackle grubber kick.
With 25 minutes to go, Jason Taumalolo lost the ball on his own 20-metre line.
This was then picked up by Jamil Hopoate, who popped up to Payne Haas.
Haas put Dearden through a gap and the half-back then passed around the back of the tackle to put Corey Oates over on the left-wing.
Isaac Luke’s conversion bounced off the upright and the scores remained 16-16.
A few minutes later, the Cowboys attacked direct from the scrum and Tabuai-Fidow dived over in the corner.
However, the winger’s left foot brushed the touchline.
The Cowboys were putting a lot of pressure on the Broncos and with 15 minutes remaining, a shotgun pass from Drinkwater found Feldt on the right-wing to walk over for his 18th try of the season, to go top of the rankings.
In the 70th minute, Drinkwater again showed his class, as he skipped across the line and grubbered the ball into the corner for Feldt to dive on top of the score his hat-trick try and all but gift the Wooden Spoon to the Broncos.
With four minutes remaining, the Broncos attacked down the right through Xavier Coates.
He kicked ahead for himself, but Valentine Holmes picked up, weaved through the big men of the Broncos, and released Tabuai-Fidow who raced away and score a runaway try.
On his last appearance, Gavin Cooper converted the try.
FULL-TIME: Brisbane Broncos 16-32 North Queensland Cowboys
Boyd, Coates, Arthars, Farnworth, Kennar, Staggs, Dearden, Ofahengaue, Luke, Haas, Riki, Glenn, Carrigan
Interchanges: Paix, Te’o, Oates, Hopoate
Tries: Haas, Boyd, Oates
Goals: Staggs (1/1), Luke (1/2)
North Queensland Cowboys
Holmes, Feldt, Taulagi, O’Neill, Tabuai-Fidow, Drinkwater, Clifford, McGuire, Cotter, McLean, Dunn, Gilbert, Taumalolo
Interchanges: Cooper, Asiata, Jensen, Molo
Tries: Clifford, Feldt (3), O’Neill, Tabuai-Fidow
Goals: Holmes (3/5), Cooper (1/1)
Referee: G. Atkins
Touch Judges: T. Smith, P. Gough
Video Referee: S. Chiddy
Image Source: @NRL (twitter)