Classy North Queensland knock out Broncos
The door slammed shut on Broncos legend Petero Civoniceva's glittering NRL career after North Queensland ran away with a 33-16 win in their elimination final in Townsville on Saturday night.
But it was no picnic either for fellow retiring veteran Aaron Payne after the Cowboys stalwart lasted just 11 minutes before succumbing to what appeared to be a knee complaint.
Cowboys halfback Michael Morgan led the way for the home side with a hat-trick of tries.
In 2004 in a steamy Townsville, North Queensland abruptly drew the curtain on Broncos forward Gorden Tallis' NRL career in the teams' only previous finals clash.
Eight years later, the Cowboys again showed little respect for another Brisbane great as Civoniceva's 15-season, 309-game career came to a shuddering halt thanks to the five tries to three win in front of 21,307 fans.
Indeed not much went to plan for the retiring stalwarts in the knockout clash on Saturday night.
The eighth-placed Broncos were expected to dig deep to try and add another chapter to the already amazing resume of 36-year-old Civoniceva, Australia's most capped forward with 46 Tests and 22 Origins for Queensland.
And the Cowboys had made no secret of the fact they would rally around Townsville-bred Payne, 30, as he looked to help North Queensland at least repeat their 2005 grand final heroics.
But someone forgot to tell another veteran - Cowboys livewire fullback Matt Bowen.
The North Queensland gamebreaker stole the limelight in his 250th game, scoring one try and setting up another for centre Brent Tate in a spectacular 85m second half play.
Bowen opened the scoring in the fourth minute when he latched onto a miraculous Ash Graham pass.
But it was nothing compared to his 57th minute effort.
In a stunning kick return, a flying Bowen cut through four defenders before setting up Tate under the posts in a sweeping movement that brought the Cowboys faithful to their feet and seemingly broke the Broncos' spirit.
However Brisbane gave Civoniceva some hope he would don the Broncos colours again when they raced in quick tries to skipper Sam Thaiday (64th minute) and winger Dale Copley (71st) to cut the deficit to 26-16.
However, North Queensland made Brisbane pay for yet another turnover when underrated halfback Morgan extended his arm out to seal his third try in the 76th minute and it was all over.
Bowen put the icing on the cake with a 79th minute field goal.
North Queensland led 18-0 at halftime.