Reluctant winger Josh Hoffman scored the best try of his blossoming NRL career as Brisbane snatched a thrilling 12-10 derby win over a depleted but gallant North Queensland on Friday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Hoffman's seventh try in his past three games - and his second of the night - in the 72nd minute put Brisbane back in front and required great strength and athleticism after some brilliant passing from Corey Norman and a no-look final effort by centre Jack Reed.
Reed had set up the first of Hoffman's double just before halftime with a deft kick off the outside of his right boot.
The Cowboys, down on troops after the late withdrawal of match-winning fullback Matt Bowen (knee soreness) and tackling machine Dallas Johnson (concussion), had led 10-8 following a converted try to Bowen's replacement Clint Greenshields in the 58th minute.
Playing his 37th NRL game but his first for the Cowboys, Greenshields dived over after hooker Rory Kostjasyn found a rare hole in Brisbane's defence.
The game was played at a cracking finals pace, the huge turnout of 42,556 fans treated to a thrill-a-minute contest featuring desperate scrambling defence from both sides.
Brisbane led 8-4 at halftime.
Both packs were brutal as they punched up the middle all night.
New father Sam Thaiday made 36 tackles and ran 123 metres for the Broncos, while Ben Hannant turned in another amazing effort with 42 tackles and 192 metres.
State of Origin hopeful Corey Parker also maintained his outstanding start to the season with another eye-catching 80 minutes, saving what looked like a certain second-half try and making 52 tackles.
North Queensland's forwards tried their hearts out, Matt Scott magnificent with 156 metres and 30 tackles alongside his Australian front-row partner James Tamou (118 and 27 tackles).
Cowboys centre Brent Tate deserved a win in his 200th game and he did all he could with 19 tackles to shut down Brisbane's left-side attack.
North Queensland were aiming for a club record fourth-straight win over Brisbane and, despite being down on troops, looked like causing an upset until Hoffman's second try lifted Brisbane back into the lead.
Cowboys coach Neil Henry was fuming over referee Ashley Klein's decision to give Brisbane what he called a "rest up".
Klein had asked the video referees to check a possible penalty try to replacement Gavin Cooper, who was stopped just short of the tryline by Parker.
The referee felt Parker was inside the 10m and a penalty try could be given.
"Please, get that right," said a frustrated Henry.
"Corey Parker's call (by Klein) through the Sports Ears saying 'penalty try possibly for making a tackle inside the 10 metres' - we don't even get a penalty.
"He (Klein) says 'no, we got that wrong. It was tackle three for you after we made a line break.
"They have a two-minute break on a review situation where they say there is nothing wrong with it.
"They went to the video and they said no try. There was never a chance it was a try - the player was nowhere near the tryline.
"What are they reviewing? Get it right."
Henry was also unhappy with a penalty against winger Ashley Graham for a legitimate challenge on Brisbane fullback Corey Norman.
Brisbane Broncos 12 (J Hoffman 2 L Maranta tries) North Queensland Cowboys 10 (A Graham C Greenshields tries J Thurston goal) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Phil Haines, Ashley Klein. Crowd: 42,556
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