The Brisbane Broncos tonight clinically dissected the Roosters defence to end the Sydney club’s season 31-12 in front of a sell-out crowd at Suncorp Stadium.
It was as exciting and riveting a first half of big game Rugby League as you could hope to see.
In the first minute of the game the Broncos produced one of the fastest, most memorable tries in league history. Shaun Kenny Dowell safely caught a Ben Hunt kick then seemed to suffer a brainsnap as he attempted to pass the ball 20 metres or more to his fullback, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. Darius Boyd, charging up the field, saw Christmas arrive early. He easily intercepted the ball and carried on sprinting to score the first four-pointer.
Eleven minutes later Ben Hunt grubber kicked towards the in-goal. Roger Tuivasa Sheck was content to let it bounce out. Jordan Kahu wasn’t. Instead he launched himself into the air and raked it back into play for Hunt to gather and score.
The Broncos just kept on coming, bewildering the Roosters line and creating gaps where none had existed a second before. Ben Hunt featured again, twice in a five-pass move set play that launched Andrew McCullough in to score. Twenty minutes in and the score was 16-0.
Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, as Justin Hodges appeared to have suffered an injury, the Roosters capitalised on momentary confusion among the Broncos to halt Brisbane’s early momentum and run in two tries in five minutes. Tuivasa-Sheck fed the ball to Blake Ferguson who only had to get past Jack Reed to score at the 22nd minute. The ghost of Yogi Berra must have smiled as, inside 300 seconds, Tuivasa-Sheck set Ferguson up to score another in exactly the same spot. Deja vu all over again.
Brisbane managed to get its act together again, and finished the half strongly, with Ben Hunt passing a lovely cut-out ball to send Corey Oates over on the stroke of halftime. The conversion failed and the teams went to the sheds at 20-12.
Mitchell Pearce, who had grabbed at and favoured a knee in the middle of the half did not return to the field; Jackson Hastings replaced him.
The Roosters started well, but a disallowed try in the first minute took the wind out of their sails, and Brisbane’s boundless energy simply proved too much for the boys from Bondi.
Anthony Milford was mesmerizing for Brisbane, continually pressured the Roosters’ defence. In the 47th he regathered a tidy little grubber kick to put himself in the clear and score, extending the Brisbane lead to 14. Jack Reed effectively sealed the victory over a demoralised Roosters squad by scoring a try – thanks to some impressive play from Darius Boyd – in the 60th minute. Milford rubbed salt in the Roosters wounds by slotting in a field goal in the 63rd.
The win leaves super coach Wayne Bennett eyeing a record eighth Grand Final next week as the Broncos fight for glory for the first time since 2006. Their opponents will be decided when the North Queensland Cowboys play the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Stadium in Melbourne tomorrow night.
The Broncos suffered a potential setback though. Justin Hodges, who played through his 250th game despite that back injury in the 24th minute, was placed on report for a dangerous throw. Bennett will be praying for a favourable finding next week. – Jesse Mullens
Top image from the Brisbane Broncos’ Twitter feed.