Matt Scott of the North Queensland Cowboys.
Matt Scott of the North Queensland Cowboys. PAUL MILLER

Cowboys and Broncos on collision course for another epic

THE Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys have featured in two of the greatest rugby league games of the past decade and now they are set to go at it again in another finals blockbuster in Townsville.

The Cowboys denied Brisbane its seventh premiership and won their first on the magical boot of Johnathan Thurston last October in one of the great grand finals.

They met in round four at Suncorp Stadium earlier this year and produced another epic clash with Brisbane winning 21-20.

Both clubs have issues heading into the clash.

The Cowboys could be without centre Kane Linnett (torn calf), while Brisbane could lose its strike centre James Roberts, who was charged with a grade-one contrary conduct offence after he kicked a rival in the Broncos' 44-28 win over the Titans.

Roberts incurred 50% loading because of a previous contrary conduct charge and will not available for the Cowboys game unless he goes to the judiciary and successfully fights the charge, which would seem highly unlikely.

Titans coach Neil Henry was very vocal about how the match officials missed the incident, and another in which frustrated Brisbane skipper Corey Parker appeared to head-butt rival Ryan James in a scrum.

Brisbane will need to improve its start against the Cowboys after scrappy opening against the Roosters in round 26 and Titans.

Veteran forward Sam Thaiday was adamant after beating the Titans that a similar start against their next opponent would end their season.

The Cowboys battled bravely against Melbourne before losing 16-10.

While Brisbane didn't travel and have an extra day's rest, North Queensland will have to fly back home to Townsville with a short turnaround to deal with as well.

That, however, could be offset by the home-ground advantage with a sell-out crowd in their corner.

The rivalry, however, between the two teams will ensure another cracker Queensland derby clash that given their history could go down the final few minutes again.

Cowboys captain Matt Scott told the players knew what to expect from their Queensland rivals.

"They're quality opponents. I think there's definitely no easy games left but we've had some nice close ones with them, none closer than the GF last year," Scott said.

"Every time we play the Broncs, especially at home, it's always a massive occasion for us. There's a great rivalry there, it's obviously stepped up a gear since last year and I know the region will be looking forward to it.

"It'll be tough to fly back home on a shorter turnaround but sometimes coming off a loss that's better, you can just move on pretty quick and just fix what went wrong."

The Cowboys are running the same pattern as last year's finals series in which they lost the first final to the Broncos before storming back to win the next three games, culminating in that epic win over Brisbane in the decider.

Scott said there was no reason why that could not happen again.

"There's certainly a lot of self-belief in the team, we're all very disappointed at the moment we had a great opportunity in front of us but we just couldn't quite execute," he said.

"We did it last year, it's probably as tough this year if not tougher, the Broncos always lift a couple of gears against us so we'll do it the hard way but we'll take a lot of self-belief from last year."

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