Tries to returning winger Kyle Feldt, Reece Robson and Jeremiah Nanai within 18 minutes blew the game wide open in the second half after the Cowboys took a narrow two-point lead into the break after an absorbing opening.
Brisbane clawed their way back in the final six minutes with two tries before Murray Taulagi got his second of the evening on fulltime.
A dominant performance from Scott Drinkwater at fullback was among the highlights of the evening with the No.1 coming up with three try assists in the 14-point win.
Cowboys captain Jason Taumalolo was in a mood to make an impact while new recruit Luciano Leilua made a cult-hero like club debut in his 100th NRL game after joining the club from the Wests Tigers last month.
Broncos winger Corey Oates bagged a double in the second half to add to his try-scoring tally in 2022 but it wasn't enough for the visitors with the Cowboys in control for most the match with a 56% possession rate in their favour.
Broncos captain Adam Reynolds produced a mixed evening after making a return from a rib injury and didn't look overly comfortable for the duration of the game.
- The Cowboys lost Coen Hess to a shoulder injury early in the game before Te Maire Martin injured his ribs to leave both sides down to 16.
- Both sides traded tries against the run of play with Billy Walters taking advantage of a sloppy Peta Hiku offload before Murray Taulagi intercepted an Adam Reynolds pass.
- Three penalty goals in the first half enabled the Cowboys to take a narrow 10-8 lead.
- A barge-over try to Griffin Neame three minutes into the second half got the Cowboys in front by eight before Scott Drinkwater sent Kyle Feldt over the line.
- Corey Oates' second half double takes him to 14 tries in 15 games for the 2022 season - his best efforts since 2018.
- A clumsy defensive effort from the scrum enabled Reece Robson to cross over the line and extend North Queensland's lead.
- Selwyn Cobbo looked dangerous at fullback in Martin's absence to score a solo try to reduce the deficit to eight.
- The Cowboys' 40 points was the highest they've ever recorded against the Broncos.
Play of the game
Murray Taulagi leads the NRL with intercepts so it was only fitting that the Cowboys winger plucked the ball out of the air for the side's opening try after an Adam Reynolds pass to get the scores all tied up.
What they said
"From a possession and field position point of view, for the first 60 minutes yeah [we dominated them], they didn't have a play inside our 20-metre zone up until 50 odd minutes. But some of the tries that they scored shouldn't have been scored, which is the part that really nags at me." - Cowboys coach Todd Payten.
"They outplayed us tonight that's for sure... we take our hats off to them. Plenty to work on for us, but the good thing is there is nine more weeks for us to get it right and make sure that the next time we play them, and we will play them again, that we get it right. We didn't get it right tonight." - Broncos coach Kevin Walters.
The Broncos will have an eight day turnaround before hosting a rare Sunday afternoon clash at Suncorp Stadium against the Dragons.
Origin representatives Payne Haas, Kurt Capewell and Patrick Carrigan are among those who won't be available assuming they're in respective squads.
North Queensland will enjoy a week off their scheduled bye before hosting the Sharks on July 15.
Story first published on NRL.com