FORTY-THREE thousand people were entertained in the South-East Queensland derby as Brisbane and Gold Coast played out a tight tussle at Suncorp Stadium.
The Broncos ran away with the premiership points but their 14-point winning margin wasn’t a true indicator of the closeness of this game. Still, they took their chances and showed composure in a tight one.
The Titans will take plenty from this game, most notably that they were in it for all bar the last few minutes. On this form they could finish in the top four; they play an entertaining style of footy. Still, they’ll wonder how they lost.
The Game Swung When… In a see-sawing game in which the lead changed several times, it wasn’t until Peter Wallace touched down in the 72nd minute that this game truly swung the Broncos’ way. Corey Parker’s conversion made the margin eight points before Israel Folau went over for his fourth try that made Broncos’ 13+ backers happy.
Early in the second half Ashley Harrison went through some threadbare Broncos defence to plunge over the line without planting the football.
In the 45th minute rookie forward Will Matthews made a big bust on the back of a Nathan Friend pass. The big unit ran into a wide open space but hung onto the ball too long, Preston Campbell looming on his left possibly out of his peripheral vision, and the try went begging. Big moment: the Titans were up by four points at that stage; 10 points would have made the Broncos fret.
Who Was Hot… Folau showed his undoubted class by scoring four tries with a blend of power and skill. A bigger handful than Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars.
Back-rower Ben Te’o had his best game in Broncos colours, with a host of strong charges. And his shoulder charge on Harrison in the final minute was a bell-ringer.
Prop Nick Kenny ran 17 times for 146 metres.
Preston Campbell ran with menace and laid on the Titans’ first try with a deft pass to Luke O’Dwyer.
Scott Prince fired big, flat, spiral cut balls left and right on the run which freed up the Titans’ outside backs.
Nathan Friend made his usual huge amount of tackles (46) as did Harrison (38).
Who Was Not… The Titans probably should have won this one. They didn’t play smart in the clutch moments.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Wonderful ball handling by the Broncos for their first try. Wallace fired a flat, hard ball to Te’o who plunged into the line and offloaded to Sam Thaiday despite heavy defence. Thaiday caught and passed in the one motion, the ball finding Folau who touched down despite desperate cover by Brad Meyers.
In-form lock Corey Parker pealed off one of the passes of the year when he flicked the ball out of his left hand as he was going to ground in the tackle, the ball bobbling up for Steve Michaels to score.
You don’t often see front-row forwards putting up pin-point mid-field bombs but Palmer Wapau did just that in the 31st minute, the ball just bouncing out of Lagi Setu’s arms.
Fabulous try by the Titans in the 35th minute. From their own 30-metre line the ball went to Scott Prince who threw a lovely cut-out pass to Mat Rogers in space. Rogers charged ahead and threw a cut ball of his own that found Esi Tonga running wide and hard and outside Folau. Tonga picked up winger Kevin Gordon on the halfway line and the Toyota Cup product (who scored 21 tries in as many games last year) streamed down the left. Karmichael Hunt came across in cover, Gordon laid on a very neat in-and-away and the Test fullback was left clutching at air. Great try.
Bad Boys… None.
Refs Watch… Just the one questionable decision by the officials. Gavin Badger pinged Mat Rogers for taking off after he’d been called held. But Rogers had wriggled through the tackle, he wasn’t being touched by anyone let alone “held”. It was a poor call by Badger in a pivotal moment with the Titans down by eight and 20 minutes left.
Otherwise the refs (Shayne Hayne was the other one) had good games.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Israel Folau (Broncos): The man is an absolute brute, a combination of power, pace and skill. As effective a centre as Mal Meninga; 2 points – Ben Te’o (Broncos): Four tackle breaks, two offloads and effective yards on the fringe of the ruck; 1 point – Preston Campbell (Titans): Broke through 12 tackles and looked menacing.
Broncos 32 (I Folau 4, S Michaels, P Wallace tries; C Parker 4 goals) def Titans 18 (L O’Dwyer, K Gordon, E Tonga tries; S Prince 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 43,079.