Cronulla belted a weakened and, it must be said, weak Brisbane Broncos at Shark Park on Monday night, racking up four straight wins and going a long way to proving they might just be a top-eight contender.
The Broncos were missing the best of their team; the likes of Australian reps Folau, Hunt, Hodges, Thaiday and Lockyer, plus NSW Origin player Peter Wallace are not easily replaced. But they dropped too much ball, threw bad passes and didn’t kick well. Bottom line is they were well and truly dusted by a Cronulla side that was also missing stars but who played for each other in front of their Sutherland faithful.
Ricky Stuart will be happy the worm is turning...
The Game Swung When… In the 53rd minute Sharks winger Blake Ferguson went over for his second try on the back of some neat work inside by his team-mates. His touch-down in the corner made it 28-12 with 25 minutes remaining and though Luke Covell’s conversion shaved across the uprights, the Broncos were battling.
When Ferguson pounced upon a loose Brisbane pass and ran 82 metres to complete his hat-trick, the baby Broncos were left to inhale the vapour of these footloose and fancy-free Sharks. It was goodnight Nurse.
Earlier, just after half-time, Broncos centre Steve Michaels got on the back of some nice hands from his men inside and scored a fine try. Corey Parker landed an excellent conversion and it was game on, 18-12.
From the kick-off, Broncos rookie Ben Hunt sprinted in to take the kick-off but knocked it on.
In the next set Grant Millington ran onto a fine and flat ball from dummy-half Terrence Seu Seu and crashed over next to the posts. A fine try but it was high school defence from the Broncos; it wasn’t like the Sharks didn’t let them know what was coming.
Who Was Hot… Anthony Tupou recorded the game-high offloads (4), ran with power into the middle of the Broncos defence and had perhaps his best game this year for the Sharks.
Cronulla halfback Scott Porter did some nice things for his team, Ferguson scored some excellent tries (one hard to be believe) while Kade Snowden did a huge amount of work.
For the Broncos, Corey Parker was busy, Ashton Sims did his best (10 runs, 94 metres) (though he seems a little way off the near-representative player he was not that long ago) while Palmer Wapau, Ben Te’o and Nick Kenny did their best.
Who Was Not… The Broncos’ hands didn’t serve them well in the first half, though it’s hard to be too tough on them in the dewy conditions. That said, their kicking game was pretty ordinary, especially in the first half where they spent a lot of time defending in their own zone. Again, hard to be too critical of the Broncos; at Origin time they always struggle, and their kiddy Clydesdales aren’t NRL standard. Then again – they were quite bad.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… In the first minute, Sharks five-eighth Scott Porter roosted a great 40-20 that tore through a firecrackers haze like a missile through fog.
Minutes later Ferguson managed to touch down in the corner despite his entire – and we do mean entire – body being outside the line, only his hand and ball touching down in the corner. Ferguson was flying through the air with three Broncos’ defenders upon him. It was a super and spectacular effort.
In the fifth minute the in-form Corey Parker bustled through some threadbare Sharks defence to plonk the ball down over the line despite more attention than Paris Hilton at the Clovelly Hotel.
Bad Boys… Ben Te’o, in the 57th minute, picked up and dumped Nathan Stapleton in a fearsome tackle – Stapleton’s shoulder bit the dust a fraction of a second before his neck, and apparently he was “very lucky not to be sent off”, according to Brett Suttor. He was later charged with a Grade 2 Dangerous Throw and will miss a fortnight with an early guilty plea.
Also, Broncos second-rower Josh McGuire was charged with a Careless High Tackle but will escape doing time with an early plea.
Refs Watch… In the 21st minute there was some super work by baby-faced Broncos fullback Dale Copley who hustled and bustled his way over from about 15 metres out and somehow, despite three Sharks defenders trying to prevent him from doing so, touched down in the corner. Video referee Steve Clark looked at it several times and passed it back to Gavin Badger who went… well, Held Up. Hmm… now: Doesn’t that mean there’s doubt? And in which case, doesn’t there mean there’s Benefit of the Doubt? What’s the point of this Ref’s Call thing anyway?
In the 34th minute Gavin Badger penalised Porter for a challenge in the air that involved a stray arm just as Copley was on the way back down. It seemed a bit ticky-touchwood. But that’s the rule – you can’t touch the man in the air, and Porter did and there was no option but to penalise.
All in all, a fine game from the officials.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Grant Millington (Sharks): 14 runs, 136 metres, 12 tackles, 15 tackle breaks and two tries. Did it all; 2 points – Kade Snowden (Sharks): 20 runs, 177 metres and 21 tackles – a huge game from a big prop; 1 point – Blake Ferguson (Sharks) : A hat-trick of tries, 7 tackle breaks and 165 metres – enough said.
Sharks 46 (L Ferguson 3, G Millington 2, M Brown, K Snowden, L Covell tries; L Covell 7 goals) def Brisbane Broncos 12 (C Parker, S Michaels tries; C Parker 2 goals) at Toyota Stadium. Crowd: 8,117.