Broncos v Titans: Five key points
Brisbane's 'spine' hits top gear, Gold Coast's playmaking woes, and Parker's standout performance. Tey points to come from the Broncos' big win over the Titans.
Broncos' spine looking very Storm-like
There was something very Storm-esque about the way the Broncos' 'spine' poured through the middle of the Titans defence particularly in the first half. With the combination between hooker Andrew McCullough, halves Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt and custodian Darius Boyd flourishing more every week, the greatest compliment they can be paid is that they are resembling the innate understanding shared between the 'big three' of Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater. In the 17th minute Boyd carved a swathe through the Titans ruck in an almost carbon copy of the Storm's pet play and then scored a try in the 22nd minute running outside Milford. Having shown their hand earlier, Hunt completely fooled the Titans defence in the 26th minute with a dummy inside to Boyd before racing 35 metres to score under the posts. The skill and variation could be a feature of Broncos football for the next five years.
"You're talking about some highly-skilled people here," said Broncos coach Wayne Bennett. "Whether you're talking Boyd, Milford or Hunt, they're an exceptional group of guys with high skill levels and as they get more confident in a system with new coaching staff and new players coming in, they had to take their time to grow. It's great to watch and they'll only get better at it. Milford's just turned 21; it's scary to think about what he could be at 25 or 26. They just do things that only really good players can do."
Titans have more than half a problem
As it stands right now, Kane Elgey is the most senior half the Titans have on their books for season 2016 and it was obvious on Friday night that after 11 NRL games he is a long way from the finished product. Unquestionably a talent, at 21 years of age Elgey is likely to mix the brilliant with the basic for a year or two yet and with no high profile back-up signed to play alongside him patience will be paramount. In the seventh minute against the Broncos, Elgey chip-kicked 35 metres out from the Brisbane line when his team desperately needed a kick into the corner and five minutes later was caught in possession on the last tackle with the Titans attacking the line. He has shown already he is NRL standard but he's not yet ready to lead a team by himself. His night came to a premature end when he was blind-sided by an Adam Blair tackle that was placed on report three minutes into the second half as the Titans failed to cross the try-line for a second straight week.
"We're struggling but at least tonight we put some plays on," said Titans coach Neil Henry. "We lacked a bit of creative spark I suppose.
"We know Kane is a developing half and unfortunately he copped that knock tonight so he's learning on the run. It is a development for some of our players and we are starting to get a few players back."
Broncos' defensive resolve unmatched
For the second consecutive week and the fifth time this season the Broncos kept a team try-less in the first half with a suffocating defensive resolve that has refused to yield since Round 2. It was the first time since Round 25, 2006 that they had kept a team scoreless, the last time they enjoyed premiership success. The Broncos missed just three tackles in the first 35 minutes compared to 16 for the Titans as the Broncos scored three tries in the space of 12 minutes to crush a team already well down on confidence. Three minutes into the second half Mitchell Dodds and Jarrod Wallace combined to hold Ryan James up over the line and from the next set of six Wallace scored under the posts for the second week in succession. Whatever the Titans threw at them the Broncos knew that if the defence held, the points would flow.
"They're definitely playing with a lot of confidence and they're very good at getting in that arm wrestle," said Titans forward Greg Bird. "They work really hard from the inside, their middle work is really hard and it stops your opportunities to attack at their edge. They're probably the benchmark at the moment and that's why they're on top of the ladder."
Corey Parker is a modern marvel
While his first career try against the Titans was the talk of the media box, Corey Parker's toughness to cop an accidental knee from a flying Ryan James into the point just under the shoulder and play on is further evidence of what a tremendous player he has become in the modern era. Now within eight points of overtaking Darren Lockyer as the Broncos' greatest-ever point-scorer, Parker made 114 metres and 37 tackles to go with a game-high seven tackle busts, refusing to allow father time to limit his contribution at 33 years of age in his 15th NRL season.
"I've played with him since he was 12 and the way he has developed as a player in his later years is unbelievable," said Broncos skipper Justin Hodges. "I know how hard he's worked, he gets through a stack of work for us but that comes back to the way he trains."
Added Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett: "He's never surprised me. He learned off some wonderful players here and they were his friends and he's carried on the tradition. He doesn't miss a training session. We try to pull him out of sessions but he won't take himself out. He's a warrior."
Punishment for foul play needs review
"We've lost our halfback and he'll get four weeks for that."
Greg Bird's plea fell on deaf ears but the tackle for which Adam Blair was placed on report and which ended Titans half Kane Elgey's night just three minutes into the second half again raised the question as to whether teams should have access to an extra reserve in the case of foul play. As it currently stands an act of foul play that is placed on report entitles the opposition team to a free interchange but with more stringent rules associated around players who receive head knocks, more and more players are unable to return to the field.
While Wayne Bennett didn't see it as a significant issue in the game today, Titans coach Neil Henry thought it was the perfect example of why an 18th man should be made available for acts of foul play.
"You lose a player to foul play, if you're talking about player welfare I don't know why we just don't have an 18th man," Henry said. "Every team travels with an 18th man, you pay for an 18th man and it caters for this situation.
"Foul play, lose a player, they don't lose anyone and you don't have a replacement. You could have a utility sitting there that could cover that role and you run him on. I think it needs looking at."