Broncos v Knights: Five key points
Anthony Milford becoming a fan favourite, below-par Broncos still good enough, Darius Boyd warming to his task and the Knights set to make some last-minute additions to their roster.
Milford making Suncorp his own
There hasn't been much to get excited about in Brisbane in the post-Locky era but when Anthony Milford sliced through in the 29th minute 15 metres his own side of halfway the crowd at Suncorp Stadium wearing maroon and gold rose as one. His arcing run that began on the left side of the field ended alongside the corner post in the right corner as the Broncos extended their lead to 20 points and energised a fan base sensing there is something special building north of the border. He laid on a try for Matt Gillett in the 67th minute with another scything run and then ran down Dane Gagai with the clock running out in an admirable show of desperation in defence.
But it was his long-range try that is destined to be on video highlight reels for the rest of the season.
"Everyone knows what he can do. He's got so much speed and so much talent, you just give him a little opportunity like that and it's all over," said Broncos skipper Justin Hodges. "It's just good to see him in full flight and how fast he is; it's about time the little fella showed it."
Below par Broncos get the job done
A week after withstanding a barrage of defence against the Storm, the Broncos showed they can pile on the points with a thrilling seven-try display against the Knights but it wasn't without its nervous moments. The final 44-22 scoreline is somewhat deceiving given the scoreline was just 20-16 heading into the final quarter of the game, the Broncos punishing the young Knights for their mistakes.
The win ahead of next week's bye virtually guarantees that Brisbane will be playing finals football in 2015 and their coach praised the way they kept Newcastle at bay after the visitors scored three unanswered tries either side of half-time.
"They showed the qualities of a good side," Bennett said. "They lifted when they had to. There were a couple of times where they had to lift themselves and they did, 20-16 was one of those times and they got themselves going again and that's what the good sides do."
Gagai confirms Origin credentials
Dane Gagai all but confirmed his place in the Maroons' team for Game Three with a superb individual display in a team that was beaten but by no means disgraced.
With the Broncos running rampant in the opening quarter of the game and piling on 20 points in quick time, Gagai took matters into his own hands in the 32nd minute by surging through some uncharacteristically shoddy Broncos goal-line defence. His combination on the right edge with Joseph Tapine caused the Broncos problems all night and confirmed to both his past and current coach that he is ready to make his Origin debut.
"He obviously knows he's on the fringe of Origin selection, he's probably been told he's in the Origin team and he wanted to show everybody how good he is and he deserves that," said Broncos coach Wayne Bennett. "I expected him to play well here tonight and he did and we all know what he can do."
Added Knights coach Rick Stone: "He's competed great every week. He's matured a lot as a leader and a young leader, particularly this year. I've seen some great advances from Dane and his talk and his leadership has been really impressive. If he gets his chance he won't let anyone down."
Boyd's class shining through
With each week that passes Darius Boyd is looking more and more like the player who helped deliver premiership glory to St George Illawarra in 2010 and he notched another significant milestone against another of his former clubs on Friday night. Boyd's try in the 62nd minute not only helped to repel a spirited Newcastle fightback but represented his first try of the season and his first in Brisbane colours since the 2008 Finals Series loss to the Storm. His deft skill was critical in the Broncos' first try of the game as he delivered a perfectly timed tap-on for Jordan Kahu to put Corey Oates away but it was a defensive play just minutes earlier that showed even greater skill. With a rampant Akuila Uate trying to position his support on the inside, Boyd somehow managed to cover both players at the same time before shutting down Uate in a one-on-one tackle. Newcastle made an error shortly thereafter and an opportunity was lost and the Broncos made them pay.
Knights head to market for back-up
The Knights are poised to go on a last-minute shopping spree in order to shore up a forward pack that suffered another serious setback on Friday night.Robbie Rochow's season could be over due to a possible fractured forearm and with no guarantee that Jarrod Mullen will play again in 2015 coach Rick Stone is hoping to add to his roster before the June 30 deadline in just a few days. Although Kade Snowden will return after next week's bye Rochow will join Chris Houston and Jack Stockwell as long-term injuries in the forwards, forcing Stone into some mid-season recruitment.
"We need some forwards. Robbie might not play again this year; we've got a couple of front-rowers out that won't play for a while so that's our priority at the moment," Stone said.
Mullen was all set to return from a troublesome toe injury against the Broncos but pulled up sore on the day of the game, his immediate future to be determined prior to the Round 18 clash with the Raiders.
"It's a delicate process with Jarrod at the moment and one that we've got to step carefully with," said Stone. "We'll just back him off a bit and see if we can get him ready for the next game and if we can't we possibly might do something about it. It's one that if he has surgery he won't play again this year anyway so it's one we're just trying to balance. "