Broncos survive Suncorp thriller
They were made to sweat it out, but the Broncos have kept their finals hopes alive after holding on for a nail-biting 30-22 victory over the Dragons in front of 36,720 relieved fans at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
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In classic tale of two halves, Ben Hunt owned the first half with two tries and an assist, helping the Broncos to a 24-4 half-time lead before Benji Marshall responded with a hand in two Dragons tries while Matt Gillett was in the sin-bin.
In a game featuring a controversial decision from the match officials, Gillett was sent to the sin bin in the 54th minute after being deemed to have tackled Marshall in and offside position despite clearly being onside.
Gillett went on to reveal in a post-match television interview that referee Ben Cummins had apologised for his incorrect call once he re-entered the field.
It was a decision that could have easily cost Brisbane their season as the Dragons managed two tries while Gillett was off the field and crossed for another as soon as he returned to take the visitors within two points inside the final 15 minutes.
Brisbane responded with four-pointer to none other than Gillett, who pumped his fist in their air after crashing over for the match-winning try in the 72nd minute.
The eight-point win sees the Broncos move temporary into the top eight ahead of the Eels who play the Knights on Saturday afternoon.
The loss for St George Illawarra ended their faint hopes of sneaking into the eight as the Broncos now look ahead to the Storm next Friday, a side they haven’t beaten in their past seven clashes.
Brisbane's first attacking opportunity came via a penalty to Ben Hunt after Dragons hooker Mitch Rein took out the legs of the Broncos half immediately after he had kicked the ball.
Hunt took the line on in the resulting set, ducking under two St. George Illawarra defenders to muscle to ball down behind the line for Brisbane's opening try after nine minutes.
Back-to-back sets to the Dragons provided Marshall a chance to direct a kick in the direction of Jason Nightingale's wing and the Kiwi flyer responded by outleaping opposite number Daniel Vidot to claim St George Illawarra's opening try.
Gareth Widdop uncharacteristically shanked his conversion enabling the Broncos to hold onto a 6-4 lead in the 16th minute.
After repelling five consecutive sets, Brisbane went down the opposite end of the field to force the Dragons into a line drop-out. From the next set a series of scrappy passes opened up room for Hunt to spot a gap in the defensive line, throw a dummy and scoot away to score his second try.
Parker added the extras to hand the Broncos a handy 12-4 advantage in the 25th minute.
Three minutes later a play-the-ball infringement by the Dragons gifted Brisbane a penalty and another look at the try-line. On the second tackle the ball floated across to Justin Hodges and the veteran centre-cum-fullback produced a perfectly timed ball for Gillett to run into a hole enabling the Broncos backrower to crash over the chalk.
The Broncos were able to complete 12 from 12 sets inside the first 30 minutes which helped lay the platform for more points in the final 10 minutes of the half.
Another strong set by Brisbane allowed Daniel Vidot to cross out wide for his seventh try of the season with the boot of Parker taking the score to 24-4 after 36 minutes.
Brisbane received another line drop-out on the stroke of half-time but couldn’t find the stripe again despite looking dangerous when throwing the ball around after the siren.
The Dragons first foray into Brisbane's area during the second half came courtesy of a penalty from a Sam Thaiday crusher tackle but their next set amounted to nothing as Dragons interchange forward Mike Cooper threw a forward pass to let the Broncos off the hook.
In the 53rd minute a Benji Marshall quick-tap inside his own half put the Broncos on the back foot which bizarrely resulted in a sin-binning to Matt Gillett. Gillett was deemed to have made a tackle in an offside position despite never being offside. The resulting set saw a controversial try awarded to Josh Dugan when the ball appeared to have been knocked forward in the earlier contest.
The incident was referred to the video referee who awarded a try much to the disgust of the Suncorp Stadium crowd. Widdop added the extras to take the score to 24-10 in the 55th minute.
Five minutes later the Dragons took full advantage of the extra man allowing Joel Thompson to stroll over the line to narrow the score to 24-16 in the 61st minute.
The Dragons’ momentum continued and as soon as Gillett returned to the field they crossed again with Marshall the catalyst for a Peter Mata'utia try. Widdop nailed the conversion to set the game up for a nail-biting finish at 24-22 in the 67th minute.
Brisbane managed to regain control of proceedings, crossing for the match-winning try through Gillett much to the delight of the Brisbane faithful.
Parker's conversion took the score beyond eight points, with the Broncos managing to hold on for a 30-22 victory.
Brisbane Broncos 30 (Ben Hunt 2, Matt Gillett 2, Daniel Vidot tries; Corey Parker 5 goals) defeated St. George Illawarra Dragons 22 (Jason Nightingale, Josh Dugan, Joel Thompson, Peter Mata'utia tries; Gareth Widdop 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 36,720.