Broncos v Panthers: Five key points
The Panthers produced an amazing performance to belt the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, here are five key points from Friday night's contest.
Griffin continues to beat Bennett
Panthers coach Anthony Griffin has a stunning head-to-head record against Wayne Bennett coached teams. Griffin has now won eight out of 10 matches against the Brisbane coach, and it must taste sweet for the man known as 'Hook', with Bennett sensationally ousting Griffin as Broncos coach at the end of the 2014 NRL season. What makes this record even more special is that fact that Bennett has only won one match, with the other being a draw. It means Penrith have now beaten Brisbane twice this year, and these losses may be the key to the Broncos missing the top four. The Panthers now sit 7th on the NRL ladder and appear to be building strongly towards the finals.
Brisbane didn't come to play
You'd think playing for a top four position would have you ready to play – apparently not. The Broncos came out for this one with absolutely no energy. It was a lethargic first 40-minutes that was reminiscent to their loss to the Melbourne Storm three weeks ago when they were belted 48-6. Penrith made the most of the Broncos' lack of interest – jumping out to an 18-0 lead at the break. The Panthers were playing for a spot in the top eight and they showed it – producing a performance full of enthusiasm and desperation.
Bitter sweet night for Blake
Waqa Blake had the best of both worlds early in the one-sided clash. If you look up the term 'bombed try', you might just see Blake's name. The 21-year-old knocked on running into a huge gap just metres from Brisbane's try line. He would have been a certainty to score if he had caught the football – so much so that Blake's knock on was adjudged to be over the try line, with the referee even calling a 20m tap to the Broncos.
But to his credit, Blake bounced back moments later. Brisbane moved into the Panthers' territory off the seven-tackle set and looked certain to create a try-scoring opportunity. Ben Hunt put an attacking bomb up and the Brisbane chasers soon followed. Blake rose above the pack and knocked the ball back towards his own try line, and regathered the ball under enormous pressure from the Broncos' chasers. He beat them all and clear space was all that was ahead of him. Running 100 metres, Blake crossed under the posts and atoned for his earlier error. One wrong doesn't make a right, but Blake sure made up for his blunder – giving Penrith the perfect start. His night then ended in the 27th minute when he was knocked out cold going for a spectacular catch.
Oates struggling with confidence
There is no doubt that Corey Oates is a confidence player. The Queensland winger dropped a bomb early in the match and it had a major impact on the rest of his performance. That error led to a James Fisher-Harris try that gave the Panthers a 12-0 lead. Oates's head proceeded to drop, and the 21-year-old then made another error as Brisbane approached Penrith's line. The Panthers proceeded to target Oates – bombarding the Broncos winger with bomb after bomb. Oates was not his reliable self, hesitating whenever a kick went towards him. At one point Oates stuck his leg out at a bomb as he was not confident enough to run hard and try and take it on the full.
In a rare sight, fans began streaming out of Suncorp Stadium 12 minutes from full-time. It was a crowd that was stunned by Brisbane's lack of intent. Normally Lang Park is filled with a chorus of chants and cheers, but on Friday night it was instead filled with groans and sighs as the Broncos made countless mistakes – 11 to be exact. A fan base that has grown behind constant success is now being tested as Brisbane struggle to live up to the pre-season hype that had them as premiership favourites.