Cowboys ride off with Nines title
THE North Queensland Cowboys have taken out the inaugural Auckland Nines title, beating the Brisbane Broncos 16-7 in the final at Eden Park.
It was a remarkable run from the Cowboys, who were the only side to progress from pool play with just one victory. It culminated in a cheque for $370,000.
They steadily found their form as the tournament progressed, beating the Panthers in the quarter-finals and upsetting the Warriors in the final four.
Their 8-0 win over the home side and favourites in the semi-final sent a fair few of the sell-out crowd streaming for the exits, with Eden Park perhaps only two-thirds full for the showpiece decider.
Many of the fans remaining seemed to have adopted the Broncos as their second team and they were again left disappointed in a relatively one-sided final.
The Cowboys were paying $26 to take the tournament heading into the event but they belied those odds as tries from Antonio Winterstein and Curtis Rona staked their side to a 10-0 halftime lead.
Ben Hunt's five-pointer with three minutes left meant the game was up for grabs in the dying moments, but the Cowboys hung on and became the first Nines champion.