Broncos overcome determined Roosters
The Brisbane Broncos have done all they can to make the top four after defeating the Sydney Roosters 24-14 in front of 37,566 fans at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
It was a fitting farewell for retiring captain Corey Parker, but we will still get to see the Brisbane legend one more time at Lang Park as the Broncos secured a home final at some point in September.
The Broncos did it the hard way, trailing at half-time and looking a shadow of the team that had won their previous four matches.
But the mark of a good side is to win when you aren't at your best and Brisbane managed to do just that.
It was always going to be tough for the Roosters to win at Suncorp Stadium, and their task was made even harder when their bench was at times reduced to just one man because of injuries.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was the third Rooster to leave the field with injury, walking off the park five minutes into the second half, taking Sydney's bench down to one player after earlier injuries to Latrell Mitchell and Dale Copley.
Despite these setbacks, the Tricolours managed to stay in the lead for most of the match. That is until the 51st minute when Brisbane five-eighth Anthony Milford converted a penalty goal from straight in front of the posts to level the scores at 14-all.
In the 56th minute, Jordan Kahu crossed in the corner after the Broncos spread the ball through their hands. A scrambling Roosters defence couldn't cover the New Zealand international and he made no mistake in getting the ball down. Parker hit the post from the sideline and the score stayed 18-14.
Waerea-Hargreaves and Mitchell returned midway through the second half, but it didn't make any difference as Brisbane's lead continued to grow.
Kahu scored his second of the night six minutes from full-time, chasing down a James Roberts kick after the fastest man in rugby league made a 50m break and toed through for his teammate. Parker converted from near the sideline to give Brisbane a 24-14 lead.
The scores stayed that way after 80 minutes, but the Broncos can count themselves lucky after a diabolic start to the match.
Copley opened the scoring for the Roosters against his old side, catching a Mitchell Pearce bomb unopposed - crossing next to the posts in the 7th minute. Mitchell converted successfully to give the visitors an early 6-0 lead.
Moments later, it looked as if the Roosters were about to double their lead, but Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt produced a superb one on one strip on Tricolours five-eighth Connor Watson to get his side out of trouble.
The Roosters suffered their first injury setback in the 20th minute, losing Mitchell to a leg injury, but the boys from Bondi still managed to extend their lead four minutes later via a Blake Ferguson penalty goal.
Offloads from Sam Moa and Mitchell Pearce resulted in another Roosters try in the 26th minute, with Watson the beneficiary as he crossed under the posts. Ferguson had no trouble with the conversion and the Roosters suddenly had a 14-0 lead.
But the Broncos were always going to hit back, and Corey Oates made an 80m break from his own in-goal in the 32nd minute, beating four Sydney defenders before being ankle-tapped 20m out from the try-line. Milford took advantage of Oates's quick play the ball, stepping the Roosters' defence and scoring to the right of the posts. He converted his own try to cut the scoreline to 14-6.
Moments later, a kick from Andrew McCullough inside Brisbane's half resulted in a Roberts try as the Broncos speedster chased it down. Winger Daniel Tupou knocked the ball backwards and Roberts pounced to score next to the right touchline. Milford converted and although the Roosters still had a 14-12 lead, the home side had all the momentum.
To make matters worse, the Roosters lost Copley in the 38th minute to concussion after the former Broncos centre suffered a bad head knock off a Kahu kick-off return.
Both sides entered half-time wanting improvement, but it was the Broncos in particular who needed to lift in the second half.
Wayne Bennett's men completed at 59 per cent and only managed to have 37 per cent of the possession, yet still trailed by just two points heading into the break.
Lift they did as they finished the regular season on a high note.
Brisbane Broncos 24 (Kahu 2, Roberts, Milford tries; Milford 3, Parker goals) defeated Sydney Roosters 14 (Copley, Watson tries; Ferguson 2, Mitchell goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 37,566. Half-time: 14-12 (Roosters).