Brisbane are surviving and thriving in the Origin period while Canberra's season is on its last legs after some Benji Marshall magic.
Broncos building nicely with the help of Origin stars
Brisbane moved – temporarily at least – into second on the table after a steady start to the normally feared State of Origin period. The Broncos are 2-2 since the Origin period began and will be confident they can put on a good showing against the Melbourne Storm in Round 17 before having a well-earned bye. Brisbane's victory over Canberra was particularly impressive considering both Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire were backing up from Origin duty, while Darius Boyd did not even play due to a thumb injury he suffered in Game Two. Gillett and McGuire were two of the Broncos' best on Saturday night, with McGuire running for 116 metres and making 26 tackles, while Gillett scored two tries, ran for 146 metres and made 33 tackles. Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett wanted to rest his two forwards heading into Saturday's match against Canberra but they both overruled him, simply stating that they must play. We're sure Bennett is glad he listened.
Benji Marshall magic
Benji Marshall now has 17 wins from 18 games against the Raiders. It is a phenomenal record, but match number 18 may have never happened if Bennett did not decide to take a punt on the veteran half in the pre-season. Many were confused by Bennett's decision to sign Marshall but hasn't the Kiwi international proved the doubters wrong. Saturday night's performance was his best of the season as the 32-year-old terrorised Canberra's defence for 80 minutes. He finished with two try assists, seven tackle breaks and 84 run metres, guiding a Broncos side without Anthony Milford, Korbin Sims and Boyd to an impressive victory.
Canberra's season on life support
The Raiders now slip to a worrying 6-9 record after starting the season as one of the premiership favourites. Ricky Stuart's men have lost three in a row and it just does not look like it is going to be their year. Poor mistakes in their own end and a painfully obvious lack of line speed in defence are just two aspects of their game that are costing them dearly. Next week's home match against the North Queensland Cowboys is simply a must-win game. Canberra still have a decent for-and-against of +36 so if they start winning games they will have an advantage over some of the sides sitting in a similar position on the table, but time is quickly running out. The Raiders are a better team than their 11th position suggests and their fans must be wondering what has gone so wrong.
Welcome back Ben Hunt
It was not until the 33rd minute that we saw Ben Hunt but he certainly made his presence felt. Dropped to reserve grade by Bennett in Round 14, Hunt has been nothing short of exceptional since receiving the news, working hard off the field to make a prompt return to the top grade. The 27-year-old has not complained once and he let his actions do the talking against the Raiders, perhaps proving a point to his critics. Hunt's kicking game was excellent, forcing four goal-line dropouts and keeping the pressure on Canberra all night. Two try assists capped off a great performance and he is sure to be a regular fixture in the Broncos' 17 moving forward this year.
Cotric continues to shine
Canberra's Nick Cotric can hold his head high; not just for Saturday night's performance but for all of his performances in his rookie year. The 18-year-old continues to be a shining light in an otherwise disastrous season for the Raiders, making Canberra's left wing spot his own. He must be the leading contender for the Dally M rookie of the year award after playing well above his weight for much of the season. He added another piece of brilliance to his growing highlight reel on Saturday night, intercepting a Hunt pass to run 90 metres and score in the corner. In the process, Cotric fended off the talented David Mead as he used his pure speed and power to will himself over the line. He has a very bright future.