Milford magic fires Broncos to first-up win
The Broncos have spoiled Cronulla's first hit-out as defending premiers with a 26-18 win at Southern Cross Group Stadium to kick off the 2017 Telstra Premiership season.
Wayne Bennett's men had to survive a vigorous second-half fightback, but a bit of individual brilliance from five-eighth Anthony Milford sealed the result 10 minutes from full-time.
Youngster Jayden Brailey more than held his own on Thursday night, with the Sharks rookie chalking up 40 tackles in an impressive 60-minute stint.
It took just one tackle for the defending premiers to deliver a statement of intent with five Sharks driving Adam Blair back in-goal to induce a roar from the crowd every bit as loud as the one heard at ANZ Stadium on October 2 last year.
But the Broncos wouldn't be overawed by the occasion, and after withstanding the early onslaught they opened the scoring through Jordan Kahu, who also grabbed the first try of 2016.
Much had been made about Valentine Holmes's unavailability for the season opener, with some questioning how Gerard Beale would handle the responsibility of playing fullback. They needn't have worried as the former Bronco screamed onto a Jack Bird offload to level the scores after 13 minutes.
After a frenetic opening quarter, the Broncos settled things down via the boot of Kahu after Wade Graham had been penalised for taking out Matt Gillett as he chased through a kick.
They would extend their lead nine minutes from the break when James Roberts lived up to his billing as the 'Jet' to speed past the defence to ground Milford's grubber just inside the dead-ball line.
The Broncos lost Alex Glenn to concussion just before half-time but they didn't let it affect them with winger Corey Oates diving over spectacularly to push the lead out to 14 points six minutes into the second stanza.
It appeared nothing was going Cronulla's way until Jack Bird fortuitously overran Chad Townsend's grubber allowing James Maloney to pounce on the loose ball to score a much needed try.
With momentum firmly on their side, the Sharks cut the gap to two points when Ben Hunt's midfield error was punished by Ricky Leutele whose sliding effort was adjudged good enough by the fans, and more importantly the bunker.
It seemed a matter of time until the Sharks would take the lead, but the game turned on its head when Paul Gallen charged down a Josh McGuire kick into a teammate, gifting the Broncos field position via a fortuitous penalty.
From the ensuing set, Milford showed why he is considered one of the most explosive players in the game as he danced his way through the defence before powering his way to the line to put the result beyond doubt.
Broncos 26 (Jordan Kahu, James Roberts, Corey Oates, Anthony Milford tries; Jordan Kahu 5 goals) def. Sharks 18 (Gerard Beale, James Maloney, Ricky Leutele tries; James Maloney 3 goals) at Southern Cross Group Stadium. Half-time: 14-6. Crowd: 11,493.