Deja vu for Broncos as Thurston inspires Cowboys victory
Johnathan Thurston broke Brisbane Broncos hearts yet again as defending premiers North Queensland Cowboys beat their fierce rivals 26-20 after extra-time in another thriller to set up an NRL preliminary final against Cronulla Sharks.
Cowboys captain Thurston kicked a field goal to seal a dramatic golden point Grand Final victory over the Broncos last year and also booted the decisive kick against Wayne Bennett's men in Round 11 this season.
Thurston inflicted more pain on the Broncos on Friday, ending their season by laying on a try for Michael Morgan on the stroke of half-time in extra-time after his penalty with just a minute of normal time remaining prolonged a gripping semi-final at 1300SMILES Stadium
The Broncos took an 8-0 lead with 12 minutes on the clock after Andrew McCullough crashed his away over and Jordan Kahu added four points with the boot.
North Queensland got into their stride and Coen Hess was on hand to finish off after taking a pass from Justin O'Neill following a magnificent break by Kyle Feldt, who sprinted from deep inside his own half.
Brisbane struck another blow just before the break, though, when Lachlan Coote made a mess of a grubber to gift Kahu a simple try, which he converted to make it 14-6 at the break.
The Cowboys came roaring back in a breathless second half, with O'Neill claiming a double in the space of five minutes - both of which were converted by Thurston - but Corey Oates darted almost the length of the field to level at 18-18 against the run of play.
Kahu added the extras to put the Broncos 20-18 up nine minutes from time, but Thurston took another pulsating contest into extra-time with a penalty after he was tripped by Matt Gillett.
Five-eighth Thurston turned on the style when it mattered yet again, selling a dummy before coming up with a clever pass for Morgan to touch down in the first period of extra-time and taking his tally with the boot to 10 to set up a clash with the Sharks next Friday.