Broncos earn bragging rights after holding off Cowboys comeback

Brisbane have ended their 2023 Pre-Season Challenge campaign on a winning note, coming from behind to down North Queensland 20-18 in humid conditions on the Sunshine Coast.

Having led for the majority of the contest, the Broncos fell behind with 20 minutes to play when Jeremiah Nanai crossed untouched for the Cowboys, before regaining the lead late on through Jesse Arthars to secure a narrow two-point victory.

Stepping in at halfback with captain Adam Reynolds rested, Jock Madden looked comfortable alongside Ezra Mam and young sensation Selwyn Cobbo at fullback, with the trio scoring or assisting all of the Broncos' first half tries.

Cobbo was particularly impressive in the number one jersey, which will no doubt fill coach Kevin Walters with confidence should he be required for the Broncos' season opener against Penrith as Reece Walsh races the clock with a facial fracture.

With a number of Todd Payten's big names playing their usual rotation of minutes, it was fullback Scott Drinkwater who stood out for the Cowboys with a hand in two tries, while halves Tom Dearden and Chad Townsend also both had strong games.

Having amassed 21 try assists in 2022, the form of his star number one will no doubt pleased Payten, with the fullback providing a clever cut-out for Kyle Feldt to score untouched in the first half before kicking for Nanai in the second.

In warm conditions, both sides moved the ball freely and created a number of opportunities with Brisbane starting fast to post a 10-0 lead after as many minutes.

Cobbo produced the play of the game to somehow ground the ball out wide after Madden's grubbed was deflected into his arms, with Kotoni Staggs showing his wares with the boot – stepping up as goal-kicker to land two of his three attempts to give Walters' side a slender 16-12 advantage at half-time.

After a mountain of possession on their opponents' line, the Cowboys eventually took the lead in the 60th minute when a Drinkwater grubber bounced up into the arms of birthday boy Jeremiah Nanai, who capped off a week in which he inked a long-term deal with the club to score his side's third try.


However, it would be the Broncos who had the final say with young half Josh Rogers putting Brisbane back in front with a pin-point cross field kick collected by Arthars.

Match Snapshot

  • An official crowd of 7,095 were in attendance at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
  • Despite being able to field squads of 26, the Cowboys (20) and Broncos (22) took to the field with smaller teams as they look to get ready for Round 1.
  • Brisbane conceded two penalties for dissent in the first half with Jordan Riki and Payne Haas both penalised by referee Todd Smith.
  • Jock Madden's kicking game produced two first half tries for the Broncos, with his deflection allowing Selwyn Cobbo to score early before a pin-point cross-field kick was batted back for Corey Oates to cross untouched. 
  • Payne Haas made 24 tackles without missing in the first half.
  • Jeremiah Nanai turned 20 on game day and celebrated with a try.
  • Xavier Willison did not return after undergoing a head injury assessment.
  • Ezra Mam and Selwyn Cobbo played the enterity of the game for Brisbane while Scott Drinkwater, Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden did the same.
  • Valentine Holmes was impressive for the Cowboys, scoring a try and landing two sideline conversions from opposite edges in his 60-minute outing.
  • The Broncos produced 13 offloads to the Cowboys' four, earning a bonus point.

Play of the Game
After struggling through an attacking set, Jock Madden drifted right and attempted to kick in behind the Cowboys' defence – only for his kick to ricochet straight into the arms of Selwyn Cobbo. With the ball in tow, the fill-in fullback continued his run to the wing, fending away from Murray Taulagi before stretching out to somehow ground the ball on the line despite the best cover attempt of Coen Hess.

What They Said
"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves. We fell short of our goal last year. The desire and hard work is there. The goal is to win the Premiership so every day when we're at training, that's where the mind is at. It's what you're striving to do. It happened tonight where our errors and giving penalties straight off an error to put us under the pump. We've got to be more disciplined and there's always errors early on in the year but a lot of them were uncharacteristic." – Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater

"Definitely fine-tuning tonight. I thought we looked pretty good early on and sort of went away from it. I was happy with the way we defended in the second half. It's been a massive focus for us this year. That's all we can do now – pre-season is done and it's into the big stuff now. Round 1 in a couple of weeks and I'm pumped." – Broncos winger Corey Oates

What's Next
Brisbane kick off their Telstra Premiership campaign with a daunting trip to Sydney's west to take on the back-to-back reigning premiers Penrith at home. The Cowboys, meanwhile, welcome Canberra to Townsville's heat with an early kickoff against the Raiders on Saturday afternoon. The two sides will then lock horns the following Friday in a mouthwatering clash at Suncorp Stadium.


Story first published on

Link to original story

Dan Talintyre, NRL Content Lead