A return to Cbus Super Stadium has allowed Anthony Milford to ignite life into his career at the Broncos, scoring two tries in a 26-16 defeat of the Titans on Friday night.
Both of Milford's tries came in a six-minute -18-point - Bronco blitz midway through the first half and although it was a more muted performance than his masterclass as a Raider at the same venue in Round 18 last season, it helped to shirk a monkey from his back that was threatening to grow into a gorilla.
While much of the post-match attention focused on Milford's attacking exploits the Brisbane win was earned on the back of a stout defensive effort in the opening 20 minutes that kept the Titans scoreless despite some enterprising attack from the home side.
"They've had a five day turnaround these blokes and they weren't great in that second half but they're gutsy and they're gritty and they stay at it. You can do anything you like when you do that stuff," said a proud Wayne Bennett of his Broncos after the match.
"I said to them before the game, and it probably didn't gel with them, but it's not muscle memory to them just yet. It takes a bit longer but we're going on the right track.
"The Titans came her to cause an upset and we worked pretty hard that first 20 minutes. We just hung in. We didn't hang in by much but we stayed at it and kept it to zero and then we started to pick up some points."
Titans coach Neil Henry described the loss as a "missed opportunity" as a perfect completion rate coming out of their own end was brought undone by 10 errors close to the Broncos' line.
"They are fundamental errors and inexperience but I think a bit of frustration too," Henry said. "We had a lot of attacking sets, I don't think we made an error in yardage sets, I think we were 20 from 20, but we made 10 errors in attacking zones. I think that was a bit of frustration, going away from what we wanted to do at times and not scoring points.
"That tends to be the way in the game. You don't score when you have a bit of possession and then the other team goes down there and scores some tries.
"They were strugging with the momentum we had and I thought it was our turn to absorb a bit of pressure and we didn't do that well enough."
After 15 minutes of the game the Titans boasted 71 per cent of possession but were unable to convert that into points due to the Brisbane resilience and their own disregard for possession.
Having held firm for the first quarter of the game, the Broncos fired three shots in quick succession from the 24th minute to take an 18-6 lead into half-time in front of a crowd of 15,432.
When they emerged for the second half the Broncos again absorbed some early intent from the Titans before extending their lead in the 47th minute with prop forward Mitchell Dodds grabbing his second – the third of his career – courtesy of a face-ball from Andrew McCullough close to the line that enticed Kierran Moseley out of his defensive line and left a gaping hole under the posts for a 24-6 lead.
The Titans dragged six points back when they capitalised on an error by Corey Oates from a towering Aidan Sezer bomb to score one set later in the 51st minute through David Mead but continued to cough up possession deep in Broncos territory.
They reduced the deficit to eight points with 12 minutes to play when Ryan James crashed over for a well-deserved try after a fortuitous mid-field break by William Zillman.
But that was as close as a 70 per cent completion rate would allow them to get, Corey Parker added a penalty goal with five minutes to play for the final 10-point margin.
The Broncos took a 12-point lead into the half-time interval on the back of three tries in the space of six minutes but it was their defensive resolve in the opening 20 minutes of the match that gave them the impetus to launch their attack.
In the fifth minute a pass by hooker Kierran Moseley on the second tackle close to the Broncos' line went to ground and was recovered by Daniel Vidot and then in the 12th minute Eddy Pettybourne found himself in possession on the last tackle before Kane Elgey put a rushed kick over the dead-ball line.
Ryan James was put into touch on the third tackle after a penalty in the 16th minute and when Pettybourne was ruled to have lost possession on the second tackle 20 metres out in front of the posts the Broncos had kept the Titans scoreless through 20 minutes despite having just 29 per cent of possession.
After having a try denied to Daniel Vidot in the 19th minute for a forward pass, the Broncos turned defence into attack when Sam Thaiday took advantage of a fast play-the-ball by Andrew McCullough to put Lachlan Maranta into space with a deft inside pass at the defensive line.
Maranta raced into the Titans' backfield before finding Milford looking up in support to open his try-scoring account with the Broncos.
Dodds had only one try himself for the club prior to kick-off but doubled his career tally when he picked up a ball that spurted out the back from a Thaiday charge at the line in the 28th minute, a video referee review confirming the on-field decision to award the try despite question marks as to whether the ball was lost or stripped by the Titans defence.
The Broncos jumped out to an 18-0 lead when Milford scored his second of the night again after a mistake by the Titans. Attacking the Broncos' end 30 metres out, James Roberts dropped the ball cold, his opposite number Jack Reed picking up the crumbs and racing down to the 40m line before being roped in by David Mead.
Reed dumped the ball out the back as he was going to ground, Milford getting a boot to the ball and having too much toe for a valiant Dave Taylor to touch down in the in-goal.
The Broncos conceded just their second try in the first half of their past four games in the 34th minute when a straightforward spill by Vidot allowed Josh Hoffman to send Anthony Don away and the Titans could have had a second had Roberts not botched a chance with 30 seconds to play in the right-hand corner.
Brisbane Broncos 26 (Anthony Milford 2, Mitchell Dodds 2 tries; Corey Parker 3, Ben Hunt 2 goals) def. Gold Coast Titans 16 (Anthony Don, David Mead, Ryan James tries; Aidan Sezer 2 goals). Half-time: Broncos 18-6. Crowd: 15,432.