21 May 2016

Thurston inspires Cowboys in thriller

9:34 am on 21 May 2016

A Johnathan Thurston field goal proved the difference as defending champion North Queensland clinched a 19-18 NRL win over Brisbane in another grand final re-match in Townsville.

The Cowboys' playmaker Johnathan Thurston.

The Cowboys' playmaker Johnathan Thurston. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Cowboys appeared cooked when they trailed 18-6 against a rampaging Broncos after winger Jordan Kahu crossed in the 42nd minute.

But thanks to the Cowboys' 2015 grand-final heroics, the 25,163-strong North Queensland faithful knew better than to write their team off, especially on the night favourite son Thurston was celebrating his 250th game for his beloved club.

And just like last year's season decider, Thurston stood tall to sink the deciding field goal and break Broncos hearts - this time in the 75th minute.

Brisbane had all the momentum after two tries to Matt Gillett gave the visitors a 12-6 halftime lead.

The Broncos looked set to run riot after Kahu scored straight after the break.

But the Cowboys clawed their way back as Brisbane's fortunes quickly turned sour.

Queensland State of Origin hopeful Corey Oates didn't return for the second half after experiencing dizzy spells.

Hooker Andrew McCullough - in his first game back from a hamstring complaint - suffered a suspected arm injury in the 48th minute and left the field.

He only returned after centre Jack Reed suffered a head knock in the 69th minute.

The Cowboys pounced, locking up the scores when fullback Lachlan Coote regathered his own kick in the 58th minute and Michael Morgan and Thurston combined to send centre Justin O'Neill over in the 64th.

The stage was set for the Queensland derby to be decided by golden point for the third straight game.

Enter Thurston: the Cowboys' co-captain brought the locals to their feet with his late heroics that sealed their eighth straight home win stretching back to 2015.

Oates' condition might open the Origin door for Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt.

Feldt had a nightmare first half, dropping two bombs and knocking on to all but gift Brisbane the halftime lead.

Before kickoff, the Cowboys' Rory Kostjasyn (neck) was replaced by John Asiata on the bench.