Turpin’s miracle salvages Brisbane’s finals hopes
BRISBANE Mr Fix it Jake Turpin on Thursday night produced the greatest solo play of his NRL career to break the Cowboys' hearts and keep the Broncos' season alive with an 18-14 great escape in Townsville.
In a dreadful but desperate derby, North Queensland looked to have all-but delivered the bullet to Brisbane's finals hopes when Jake Clifford landed a 72nd minute penalty goal for a narrow 14-12 lead.
But with 60 seconds remaining, the Broncos conjured the ultimate Houdini act, the newly-signed Turpin racing onto an offload and slicing through to consign the Cowboys to another crushing last-minute defeat.
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It was a drama-charged finale, with the final Brisbane pass in the lead-up to Turpin's try appearing to be forward, but referee Matt Cecchin awarded the four-pointer which catapulted Brisbane back into the top eight.
A loss could have sent Brisbane crashing to 11th. But they wake on Friday temporarily in seventh spot and have finals destiny in their hands as they brace for a final month of games against Penrith, Souths, Parramatta and Canterbury.
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold said it would have been a travesty if his side lost, insisting his side was the better team.
"I thought we deserved to win, we didn't have any line breaks and we missed less than 10 tackles," he said.
"It's been a tough six days for the group so it was good to get a result.
"If we had have lost that game, it would have been a tough loss to take, but we'll take it I suppose.
"We need to be better, we were good marching down the field but we were frantic on their tryline."
Just four years ago, these sides contested the 2015 grand final but on Thursday night, Brisbane and the Cowboys resembled premiership pretenders as they fumbled and bumbled their way through the 80 minutes.
In total, there were a staggering 26 errors - 13 apiece - but Brisbane held their nerve longer to snatch the derby.
Cowboys coach Paul Green conceded his side won't play finals football for a second consecutive season in the wake of a heartbreaking derby collapse.
Last set of the match Cowboys player held back from the ball, Broncos awarded 6 again and then a pass the was a metre forward from Milford. #NRLCowboysBroncos— silentmajority (@Ponchadale) August 8, 2019
"It's very gut wrenching, we have been battling away," Green said.
"It (the Cowboys missing the finals) makes it more gut-wrenching, I feel for some of the guys who won't go around again next year, a guy like Matt Scott for example.
"The fact is we had that game won and we didn't finish them off.
"We haven't learn our lessons this season, we can't blame anyone else, I'm disappointed because we had a chance to get a win up and once again we have let a win slip away."
Amid the melodrama, Cowboys hardman Josh McGuire could come under scrutiny for placing his hand in the face of David Fifita in a first half of spite and niggle.
The NRL's greatest rivalry was again close, with the sides going to half-time locked at 6-all before Clifford and Fififta traded superb solo second-half tries to set-up a thrilling finale.
Stung by last week's 40-4 debacle against the Storm, the Broncos started up-tempo from the opening exchanges against a Cowboys side rocked by the late withdrawal of monster prop Jordan McLean.
Tevita Pangai Jr's second-phase offers another dimension to the Broncos.
The Tongan torpedo is the NRL's leading offloader and he tormented the Cowboys on the fringes, producing four in the first 20 minutes to get the Broncos rolling.
The first half summed up why these teams entered the clash outside the top eight. This derby was desperate but far from delightful.
The execution of both sides was woeful and it was only Brisbane's lack of offensive rhythm which kept the Cowboys in the contest.
The second-half was an error-riddled slugfest bookended by two moments of solo magic.
LISTEN! Brett Finch and Paul Kent are back in the studio with Matty Johns to dig out some fun memories for 70's Retro Round, offer suggestions to help the southern Queensland teams get back on track, analyse Kalyn Ponga's mega-deal and Kenty details his Tuesday feud with Ivan Cleary.
Cowboys halfback Clifford edged the hosts clear at 12-6 in the 57th minute with a superb grubber-and-regather, only for Broncos hulk Fifita to hit back eight minutes later with a rampaging charge that levelled scores at 12-all.
When Clifford landed a late penalty, the Cowboys looked to have done enough. But there is one man at the Broncos who never gives up ... Turpin fighting until the scrappy, bitter end to nail the Cowboys' coffin shut.
BRISBANE 18 (D Fifita A Milford J Turpin tries J Isaako 3 goals) bt NORTH QUEENSLAND 14 (J Clifford S Wright tries J Clifford 3 goals) at 1300SMILES Stadium. Referee: Gavin Badger, Matt Cecchin. Crowd: 17,530