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2015 NRL Grand Final

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12  4
Australian National anthem  Jessica Mauboy
Champion  North Queensland Cowboys
Man of the match  Johnathan Thurston
Attendance  82,758
Clive Churchill Medal  Johnathan Thurston
Broadcasters  Nine Network
Date  4 October 2015
Stadium  Stadium Australia
2015 NRL Grand Final cdnnewsapicomauimagev13673a961c5762f18ce58f9
Referees  Gerard Sutton Ben Cummins
Commentators  Ray Warren Phil Gould Peter Sterling Wally Lewis
Location  Stadium Australia, Sydney, Australia
Similar  2016 NRL Grand Final, 2015 AFL Grand Final, 2015 Super League G, 2014 NRL Grand Final, 2013 NRL Grand Final

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The 2015 NRL Grand Final was the conclusive and premiership-deciding game of the 2015 NRL season and was played on Sunday 4 October at Sydney's ANZ Stadium between the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys. North Queensland won the match 17–16 in golden point extra time, claiming their first premiership title in their twentieth year of competition. Due to its dramatic ending, the match has been regarded as one of the greatest grand finals in rugby league history, drawing comparisons with the 1989 NSWRL Grand Final and the 1997 ARL Grand Final. Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston, who kicked the winning field goal for his team, was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal as the best player on the ground. Pre-match entertainment was headlined by Australian rock band Cold Chisel.

Contents

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Background

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The Brisbane Broncos qualified for their first grand final appearance since 2006, and had never previously been defeated in a grand final, winning all six they have featured in – 1992, 1993, 1998, 2000, 2006, and 1997 for Super League. It was Broncos coach Wayne Bennett's eighth involvement in a grand final after coaching the club in all of their previous grand final appearances, and winning a premiership title for the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2010. The North Queensland Cowboys reached the premiership deciding game for the second time in their history since their inception into the competition in 1995, after losing to the Wests Tigers in their first appearance in 2005. It was the second time in history that no New South Wales team had featured in the grand final after 2006 which featured the Broncos up against the Melbourne Storm, and is the first time that a grand final featured two Queensland-based clubs.

2016 season

2015 NRL Grand Final Index of wpcontentuploads201510

Brisbane, who finished second in the regular season ladder, and North Queensland, who finished third, faced each other during the first week of the finals series in a qualification game, with the Broncos prevailing 16-12 in a tight contest at Suncorp Stadium to earn a week off and the right to host a grand final qualifier. The Broncos defeated minor premiers the Sydney Roosters 31-12 in the preliminary final at Suncorp Stadium to claim the first spot in the grand final. In losing to the Broncos, North Queensland were forced to play an extra week in the finals and faced the sixth-placed Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at their home venue of 1300SMILES Stadium, beating them convincingly 39-0. They then qualified for the grand final after defeating the Melbourne Storm 32-12 in their preliminary final at AAMI Park.

1st half

After an even opening five minutes, the first points of the game were scored by the Broncos in the sixth minute, when a Cowboys handling error in midfield followed shortly by a penalty allowed Corey Parker to kick a 40-metre penalty goal. The Broncos then returned the first tackle after the restart for the opening try of the game, after a late offload on his own ten-metre line from Adam Blair to Anthony Milford allowed Milford to set up a line-break down the left wing, culminating in a try to Corey Oates; Parker converted the try and Brisbane led 8–0. The Broncos then knocked on shortly after the restart, and North Queensland scored its opening try from the ensuing scrum set piece, with Jake Granville breaking the line to set up Justin O'Neill for the try; Johnathan Thurston converted and Brisbane led 8–6. North Queensland nearly scored again three minutes later, with Oates making a try-saving tackle on Kyle Feldt after a pass from Lachlan Coote.

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Over the ensuing fifteen minutes, North Queensland had the better of possession and field position. In the 24th minute, attacking from a repeat set which had followed a grubber kick, James Tamou took the first pass out of dummy half and scored under the posts; Thurston converted the try to give North Queensland a 12–8 lead. Brisbane scored an opportunistic try in the 34th minute, when Thurston lost the ball in a tackle in North Queensland territory, and Matt Gillett recovered for Brisbane and broke the line to put Jack Reed over for a try; Jordan Kahu converted and Brisbane regained a 14–12 lead which it took to half time.

2nd half

2015 NRL Grand Final 2015 NRL Grand Final Wikipedia

Jordan Kahu scored a penalty goal in the 43rd minute to give Brisbane a 16–12 lead. From that point, the game played out as a defensive battle in Brisbane territory. North Queensland had the better of possession and territory, and generated several repeat sets in attack, but the Cowboys were unable to score due to a combination of their own erratic attacking play and Brisbane's stout goal line defence. Brisbane actively sought to defend its lead, kicking for touch on sixth tackle throughout most of the second half to kill the clock and manage fatigue. North Queensland's two closest opportunities came in the 61st minute, when Kane Linnett dropped a cut-out pass from Thurston which would have seen Linnett score; and in the 64th minute, when Coote was tackled around the legs by Gillett just short of the try line – Coote reached out to put the ball over the line and was penalised for a double movement.

With four minutes remaining, and the ball deep in North Queensland's territory, Ben Hunt conceded a penalty for a dangerous lifting tackle on Linnett, giving North Queensland field position. North Queensland failed to score on the ensuing set; but on Brisbane's following set, the Broncos failed to get to a sixth tackle kick, after Feldt stripped the ball one-on-one from Hunt at midfield on fourth tackle with one minute remaining. North Queensland attacked, and on the sixth tackle, Michael Morgan ran to the right side, cut in to draw three Brisbane defenders, then flicked a short outside pass to Feldt who scored just inside the right corner as time expired. Thurston's attempted game-winning conversion hit the near upright and bounced out, leaving the game tied at 16–16.

Extra time

North Queensland kicked off first in extra time, and the opening kick-off was knocked on by Ben Hunt, immediately giving North Queensland an attacking scrum on Brisbane's ten-metre line. North Queensland set up for the game-winning field goal, and after aborting attempts on the first and third tackles due to strong defensive pressure from the Broncos, Johnathan Thurston scored with the short-range field goal on fifth tackle to win the game 17–16.

Post-match

At the post-match ceremony, Johnathan Thurston received the Clive Churchill medal as best on ground. This was then followed by the championship ring ceremony and the co-captains holding the Provan-Summons trophy.

Thurston drew praise for his post-match conduct, notably consoling Ben Hunt. Many consider the image of Thurston hugging his daughter to be the 'best image' of the grand final.

Aftermath

Both grand finalists, North Queensland and Brisbane, as well as minor premiers the Sydney Roosters, qualified for the second World Club Series, played in the 2016 pre-season against clubs from the English Super League.

References

2015 NRL Grand Final Wikipedia


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