A Brisbane try 26 seconds from fulltime cruelly cost the Junior New Zealand Warriors a Toyota Cup rugby league grand final spot at the Sydney Football Stadium here tonight.

The Warriors led 26-24 and looked to have held on for a spot in next Sunday’s decider but Brisbane’s Michael Spence grubbered through, regathered and sent fellow benchman Tom Butterfield over to clinch the preliminary final 28-26.

It was a heartbreaking finish for the Tony Iro-coached Junior Warriors who looked to have the match in safe keeping when halfback Isaac John scored their fifth try to make it 26-18 with eight minutes remaining.

But the Junior Broncos stormed home with tries to winger Jharal Yow Yeh, then Butterfield’s desperate effort to book a grand final against minor premiers Canberra.

The Warriors finished third in the inaugural Toyota Cup minor premiership and were the form side of the playoff series, beating the Dragons 47-20 and Penrith 34-4.

Tonight they trailed 0-12 midway through the first half after Yow Yeh raced 80m for an intercept try when the Warriors looked certain to score with an overlap.

But led by part-time senior NRL forwards Russell Packer and Sonny Fai, the bulky Warriors fought back into the game with tries to centres Patrick Ah Van and Rusty Bristow.

They hit the front 10 minutes into the second half when interchange prop Steve Rapira — younger brother of senior Warrior Sam Rapira — steamed onto a short ball from hooker Arron Pawley to score next to the posts.

Then brilliant fullback Kevin Locke weaved his magic with an 85m dash after fielding a chip kick.

His conversion extended the margin to 10, but the Broncos weren’t done as centre Brendon Gibb scored from a kick deflection to make it 22-18 with 20 minutes left.

Junior Broncos 28 (Jharal Yow Yeh 2, Mitch Rivett, Brendon Gibb, Tom Butterfield tries; Ben Hunt 4 goals) Junior Warriors 26 (Patrick Ah Van, Rusty Bristow, Steve Rapira, Kevin Locke, Isaac John tries; Locke 3 goals). Halftime: 12-10