Auckland Nines: North Queensland Cowboys win tournament

Kyle Feldt of the Cowboys dives over to score during the semi final match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Queensland Cowboys in the Auckland NRL Nines. Photo / Getty Images
Kyle Feldt of the Cowboys dives over to score during the semi final match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Queensland Cowboys in the Auckland NRL Nines. Photo / Getty Images

The North Queensland Cowboys have taken out the inaugural Auckland Nines title, beating the Brisbane Broncos 16-7 in the final at Eden Park this evening.

It was a remarkable run from the Cowboys, who were the only side to progress from pool play with just one victory, and it culminated in a cheque for A$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 semifinal sent a fair few of the sell-out crowd streaming for the exits, with Eden Park perhaps two-thirds full for the showpiece.

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.

Their win brought down the curtain on a hugely successful weekend, with nearly 90,000 fans turning out across the two days. While the crowd revelled in a festival-type atmosphere, the action on the field maintained fans' attentions and the level of play was better than some expected.

It perhaps waned as the second day progressed, with fatigue creeping in as the two teams in the final played their fourth game of the day, and scoring dropped in the latter stages.

But those minor qualms didn't detract on a good weekend for rugby league and one that should see the nines format enjoy a bright future.

Shaun Johnson was named the most valuable player and the Warriors captain has already said he will continue to play a part in any subsequent events.

- APNZ

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