BRISBANE won’t be bursting with pride over this effort, but they nonetheless leave hostile territory with two competition points. For a while they looked set for an easy night, crafting two tries in the first 13 minutes against a Wests Tigers side that might still have been dealing with the heartbreak of their last-second loss to Souths five days earlier.
But as a lot of matches involving the Tigers tend to do, this one developed into a dogfight that ultimately delivered yet more grief for the home side and their passionate fans, one of whom raided the pitch after the siren to put his costly tackle on the night’s ‘villain of Campbelltown’, referee Jared Maxwell.
Played in weather that would dispose a certain type to contemplate building an ark, this was a match the Broncos got away with. After 80 minutes’ slip-and-slide interspersed with some terrific football, the visitors prevailed despite having less possession, completing fewer sets, making more errors, missing twice as many tackles and making fewer line-breaks and off-loads.
In the end, they scraped home thanks to some big plays from their two best players, Darren Lockyer and Karmichael Hunt, and a bit of a piggyback from the referees during the second half.
The Tigers will lament yet another close loss, while fuming about the five straight penalties awarded to the Broncos in the second stanza and the sin-binning of Benji Marshall with 15 minutes to go and two points separating the teams. If they’re looking for positives, they could take comfort from the fact they went close to beating a premiership heavyweight without their star hooker Robbie Farah, and their golden period late in the first half when they put on 14 unanswered points and were unlucky to have a fourth try disallowed on the stroke of halftime.
But a clear-eyed assessment would be that Brisbane are masters of winning tight games... and Wests are masters at losing them.
The Game Swung When… A series of penalties allowed the Broncos to sustain pressure on the Tigers and eventually crack them with a Lockyer try – just after the hour – that was the last of the night. The Tigers’ efforts to hit back were blunted by referee Jarred Maxwell’s binning of Marshall for repeated offences, this one a strip.
Who Was Hot… Karmichael Hunt, whose evolution from a superb athlete to a complete footballer continues. As well as scoring his seventh try of the season and setting up another with the kind of pinpoint pass that is increasingly defining his game, the Broncos’ custodian was superb at the back under the high ball (though his tackling stats read none from three).
A bright spot for the Tigers was the showing of their powerful rookie centre Peni Tagive – 20 years old, 192cm and 99 kg – who opened his team’s account with a barnstorming finish to a nice movement.
Who Was Not… Broncos winger Antonio Winterstein, whose inexperience showed up in the form of crabbing runs that did his side no favours.
And while he by no means had a shocker, Sam Thaiday is reminding everyone that an NRL season is not a sprint but a marathon: while he still made 34 tackles, his impact in attack (nine runs for 69 metres) was a long way short of what it was in the opening rounds.
Meanwhile, without Farah, the Tigers needed a little more from their star Marshall, who had his fingerprints on some nice plays but ran just twice for eight metres.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… With the wind at his back in the second half, Marshall launched a line-dropout that went 75 metres.
For comic relief, Tigers’ big man Todd Payten produced a “falcon” by slipping into a pass on a penalty restart, while in the slush Lockyer wasn’t far from an airswing attempting a clearing kick late in the game.
There was also the brain snap of Tigers’ winger Beau Ryan, who received a pass with both feet on the wrong side of the touchline.
Bad Boys… The Tigers’ Todd Payten and John Morris were placed on report for high tackles that looked no worse than clumsy.
However, Gareth Ellis was later charged by the match review committee with dangerous contact (read: grapple) for a 70th minute effort. The NRL was busy contacting the English Super League trying to work out his ‘priors’ before determining his fate.
Refs Watch… Tired and emotional Tigers’ fan Mark Edwards was so incensed by the spate of second-half penalties awarded to the Broncos and the binning of Marshall that he made the VBD (Very Bad Decision) to tackle referee Jared Maxwell after the siren.
Thousands of other spectators booed the refs, and Tigers coach Tim Sheens said he did as well. They had a case, but the Tigers lost because they didn’t do enough with their share of possession.
NRL Best & Fairest… 3 points – Karmichael Hunt (Broncos): Dangerous in attack and flawless under the high ball in slippery conditions; 2 points – Nick Kenny (Broncos): On a night that lent itself to forward slog, he was the pick with 16 runs for 126 metres; 1 point – Taniela Tuaki (Tigers): His team’s top metre-eater with 190 from 19 runs, including a try.
Broncos 20 (A Winterstein, K Hunt, B Te’o, D Lockyer tries; C Parker 2 goals) def Tigers 18 (P Tagive, B Ayshford, T Tuiaki, B Marshall tries; Marshall goal) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium. Crowd: 9, 675.