No-one would have predicted the outcome in Round 21 last year, when the last-placed Eels travelled north to face a Broncos side that were just two wins behind the ladder-leading Bulldogs.
Even though the Eels were coming off a gutsy, low-scoring home win against eventual premiers Melbourne in their first game under caretaker coach Brad Arthur. And even though the Broncos themselves were coming off a narrow loss to the Titans, nobody would have expected the avalanche of points the cellar-dwelling Eels would produce.
Looking to avoid their first wooden spoon in 30 years – a task they would eventually fail – the Eels started brightly as hooker Nathan Smith charged down a Peter Wallace kick to stroll over in the 10th minute.
The Broncos levelled up following a grubber from Corey Norman, playing at five-eighth, in the 20th minute. But the Eels exploded in the 11 minutes before halftime with four unanswered tries to prop Justin Poore, Chris Sandow, Ken Sio and retiring winger Luke Burt.
The Broncos scored two quick tries immediately following the resumption to make Eels fans nervous but when Fuifui Moimoi became the second Eels prop to score for the night on 60 minutes the result seemed beyond doubt, despite a late try to Broncos winger Lachlan Maranta.
The result was surprising not just given the side’s relative positions on the ladder but also the weight of possession. Brisbane had 56 per cent of the ball and completed 85 per cent of their sets – usually winning numbers in anyone’s language. But they also missed double the amount of tackles that Parramatta did (64-29) leading the Eels to dominate the line breaks 13-2 and the battle for territory 1623 metres to 1321 metres.
For the Eels, veteran back-rower Nathan Hindmarsh again tackled himself to a standstill with 50 tackles as well as three offloads. Reni Maitua and Sio each notched over 180 metres while for the Broncos Ben Hannant earned 179 metres from 20 powerful runs.