THERE were 42,303 people at Suncorp Stadium but few would have been more relieved at Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough’s winning try against North Queensland than Broncos prop Josh McGuire.
Nearing a half century of tackles, McCullough celebrated the decision of Australia captain Cameron Smith not to take his jersey next year by backing up a Dale Copley break to dive over with six minutes left in the Queensland derby, securing a 16-12 win.
“I was on the bench and I started choking one of our water runners, I was that excited,” Samoan international McGuire said.
And with good reason; the 106 kg 24-year-old was reported twice – the second offence allowing the Cowboys to take a lead – and was responsible for a Ben Hunt try in the 60th minute being disallowed.
He was booked first for a high tackle on Gavin Cooper and again for diving at the legs of Robert Lui, leading to Cowboys replacement Ashton Sims telling the referees: “He could have broke (sic) his leg”
Of the first incident, McGuire said: “I’ll just cop it on the chin, it was unlucky, it was an accident”. When asked about the second, he claimed to be unaware of the rules regarding challenges on kickers.
“I just sprinted out of the line and he jumped. I didn’t realise he jumped. I didn’t know the rules, to be honest. I thought you could tackle them as long as you wrap your arms.”
But McGuire’s most costly infraction looked like being standing in front of team-mate Ben Hunt when the halfback dashed over for what could have been the winning try in an enthralling struggle.
Without consulting the video referees, on-field officials Ben Cummins and Gavin Reynolds ruled defender Tariq Sims had been illegally obstructed.
“I probably got lazy and didn’t push through fast enough,” McGuire recalled. “I’m a front rower, I don’t get to decide what happens there. I just push up and if he passes me the ball, I take it.
“If he doesn’t, it goes out the back.”
North Queensland attacked right to the death in a mistake-affected, but thrilling contest before a crowd that has put the NRL attendance average for the young season back on track.
Brisbane lock Matt Gillett was put over by Ben Barba early, Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston responded with a converted try of his own and then new five-eighth Josh Hoffman’s kick allowed Daniel Vidot to put the home side ahead 10-6 at the break.
Hoffman, whose agent pressed for a release when Barba was signed in the off-season, broke his media silence after the game.
He was lavish in his praise of Barba, saying: “”He brings that x-factor. He’s got a good voice. His talk … it’s great to have someone like that behind you at the back.
“From being behind there (I know) the forwards, they’re going to need a lot of talk from a fullback. It’s good having that sort of player behind him.”
Asked about his newfound prowess as a tactical kicker, Hoffman said: “”I’ve been looking at a few YouTube videos of Darren Lockyer. He’s got that big left foot. It’s just trying to bring my own thing to the jersey.”
Cooper allowed NQ to draw level nine minutes into the second half, when a kick was tapped down to him by Kyle Feldt, and the 10-10 deadlock was broken by Thurston the second time McGuire was booked.
“It was a great contest, I don’t think it was a particularly great game,” said North Queensland coach Paul Green.
BRISBANE 16 (M Gillett D Vidot A McCullough tries C Parker 2 goals) beat NORTH QUEENSLAND 12 (J Thurston G Cooper tries,Thurston 2 goals) at Suncorp Staidum. Referees: B Cummins/G Reyolds. Crowd: 42,303.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD