The Brisbane Broncos got a small taste of life after Ben Hunt after the Dragons-bound halfback was forced from the field with a hamstring injury in his side's commanding 32-8 win over the Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
Injury Update: Ben Hunt has a mild hamstring injury, won't be back tonight but not serious— Brisbane Broncos (@brisbanebroncos) April 6, 2017
The boot of Jordan Kahu was all that separated the two teams after an enthralling first 40 minutes saw Brisbane take a 14-8 lead into the break but a mountain of possession in the second term enabled the home side to move into top gear and record their third win of the season.
Although Hunt left the field clutching his left hamstring in the 49th minute the initial diagnosis was that it was not a serious injury with Kodi Nikorima coming on to help close out the win in his first appearance for the season.
The loss of Hunt was one of a number of injury concerns for the Broncos who lost Corey Oates with a groin injury prior to kick-off, saw Josh McGuire receive treatment for a left shoulder problem and Korbin Sims miss the final 23 minutes with a foot injury.
The mayhem of the opening 40 minutes continued in the first set of the second stanza when Zane Tetevano delivered one of the best bell-ringers of the season on Anthony Milford only for Tevita Pangai Jnr to break into the back-field and put the Broncos on the attack.
The Broncos were denied one of the tries of the season when Hunt's 46th minute effort that started back near halfway with a Korbin Sims offload was called back for a supposed forward final pass from Milford.
Hunt's departure saw Nikorima get his first game-time of the season and a minute later after his introduction Sims barged his way over from close range to take the Broncos' lead out to 12 points after 52 minutes.
If we thought we had seen everything in the first 57 minutes we were treated to something even more extraordinary when Nikorima and Roberts almost combined for a try, the Roosters picked up a loose ball and went 90 metres in the space of two tackles only for Michael Gordon to be ankle tapped by Andrew McCullough with the line wide open and then Pangai Jnr intercepted the Gordon pass as the Roosters endeavoured to get to the space on the right.
Keary produced an incredible effort to rein in a Milford grubber that seemed destined for Roberts to score from with Gordon the interceptor at the end of the next set when McCullough tried to thread a grubber kick into the in-goal.
Kahu's fifth goal of the night – a penalty in the 70th minute – allowed the home side to open up a 22-8 lead and when James Roberts flashed across after Josh McGuire jolted the ball free from the grasp of Shaun Kenny-Dowall the Broncos had secured their third win of 2017.
To finish off a comprehensive performance David Mead scored in the 77th minute to mark an excellent first performance in Broncos colours in the best possible fashion.
The Broncos made a number of changes prior to kick-off with Mead earning his maiden Broncos appearance for Oates (groin) with Herman Ese'ese and Alex Glenn promoted to the starting side for Sam Thaiday and Sims.
The Roosters gave an indication of their mindset with an offload from the very first tackle of the game and their defence soon wilted under the pressure of a powerful Broncos opening.
Halfback Mitchell Pearce was caught at marker on his goal-line and a yawning hole opened up between he and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves which Broncos hooker McCullough disbelievingly pushed through to score in the sixth minute.
Roberts finally cut loose from his own 10-metre line, outpacing Daniel Tupou and Luke Keary in an exhilarating piece of play that covered some 60 metres before coming to nought but the Roosters made quick use of their use of the football.
In just their fourth set of the game Keary swept around to the right and hit Mitchell Aubusson on a line that saw him brush past an attempt at tackle from Moga and score wide out to reduce the margin to four points after 17 minutes.
That deficit was erased completely four minutes later when Blake Ferguson again made easy work of a Moga attempt at tackle, Gordon's second missed conversion keeping the scores level at 8-all through 23 minutes.
The Roosters' brittle defence was again exposed when Thaiday burst onto a Milford pass with just his second touch of the game, Milford holding up Pearce and Ferguson long enough to create the space for Thaiday's second try in as many weeks.
There was more drama in the final couple of minutes with Roosters lock Aidan Guerra held up under the posts and then Kahu bombing an opportunity just prior to the break when he cut in on a flick pass from Roberts rather than holding firm on his wing where he would have had an unimpeded run to the try-line.
Brisbane Broncos 32 (Andrew McCullough, Sam Thaiday, Korbin Sims, James Roberts, David Mead tries; Jordan Kahu 6 goals) def. Sydney Roosters 8 (Mitch Aubusson, Blake Ferguson tries) at Suncorp Stadium. Half-time: Broncos 14-8. Crowd: 30,376. Holden Cup: Broncos 40-26.