Broncos survive Knights scare
Brisbane prop Korbin Sims has come back to haunt his old side, scoring a decisive second-half try as the Broncos beat a spirited Newcastle Knights outfit 34-22 at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The former Knight slammed the ball down in the 70th minute in a fiery contest as the Broncos survived a scare against the bottom-placed hosts despite missing several key players.
Wayne Bennett's decision to rest State of Origin pair Josh McGuire and Matt Gillett took time for the Broncos to adjust early, however the power game of Sims, Alex Glenn and Sam Thaiday late in the contest proved too much for the inexperienced Knights.
Potential Newcastle recruit Tautau Moga was also enormous for the visitors with two line breaks in a 177-metre display.
Newcastle took a 12-6 lead into the break but the Broncos responded immediately after with three tries in 10 minutes to turn the game, before the Knights struck back with two of their own midway through the second half with the contest evenly poised.
James Roberts latched onto a scrappy Joe Wardle kick and raced 60 metres to the line, before Moga ran over Dane Gagai on the left edge and later finished off a stellar team effort.
Brisbane were suddenly full of running and extended their lead after points when Australian international Sam Thaiday identified some clumsy defence around the ruck to help Anthony Milford stroll over in his return game after five weeks out.
In a seesawing contest, the Knights hit back two minutes later as Wardle made up for an earlier error to leap high and keep the ball alive for Chanel Mata'utia to cross in the corner.
The Knights struck again shortly after when Trent Hodkinson put Gagai into a yawning gap, but the Wally Lewis medallist from the State of Origin series had a shocker in possession with the home side on the attack again when he inexcusably threw the ball to a Bronco on first tackle.
Sims' try immediately followed as he broke past Hodkinson and Mata'utia to plant the ball down and hand the Broncos an eight-point lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Gagai made up for the earlier error to bust into space and give the Knights a glimmer of hope, however the home side lost their way with Barnett fumbling the ball and putting an end to any chance of a comeback.
Hunt iced the win with a perfectly placed grubber for Jonus Pearson to score in-goal minutes out from full-time.
Earlier in the contest Sims had a target on his back early as the Newcastle forward pack aimed up against their former teammate with a couple of monster hits.
Another big shot on Sims proved costly for the home side with Peter Mata'utia leaving the field after copping an accidental elbow from the Fijian international, the hit ruling the 26-year-old out for the remainder of the contest.
The classic opening battle between Sims and the Knights continued as the Broncos prop steamrolled over Lachlan Fitzgibbon before being denied the opening try for the visitors after a strong charge over the line.
Newcastle were unlucky shortly after when Nathan Ross busted up through the middle on the last tackle but was ruled to have run behind Sione Mata'utia in the lead-up.
Broncos centre James Roberts split through the Knights defence in the ensuing set however the defence of the Novocastrians remained strong after a quarter of the game.
Knights lock Mitch Barnett was making inroads up the middle and put prop Daniel Saifiti into space, however the last pass to Hodkinson went to ground with the try-line in sight.
Brisbane took advantage of the Knights' misfortunes with Hunt providing the pin-point cross-field kick for Jordan Kahu to outleap Chanel Mata'utia and get over the line in the 26th minute.
Newcastle hit back almost immediately to level the match back up as Hodkinson sent Sione Mata'utia over untouched after a perfect line run split Hunt and Roberts on Brisbane's right side.
The Knights went back-to-back after points with Ross brushing past Tevita Pangai Jr before finding Danny Levi in support to go over next to the posts.
A structured first half from the Broncos turned more creative in the second with dominant yardage and a 13-9 offload count proving the difference in the end as Newcastle succumbed to their seventh loss in a row.
Brisbane now momentarily jump back into the top four on the Telstra Premiership ladder on the back of the 12-point win.
Brisbane Broncos 34 (Kahu, Roberts, Moga, Milford, Sims, Pearson tries; Kahu 5 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 22 (S Mata'utia, C Mata'utia, Levi, Gagai tries; Hodkinson 3 goals) at McDonald Jones Stadium. Crowd: 13,773. Half-time: Knights 12-6.
NRL.com unofficial votes: 3 points: Tautau Moga. 2 points: Mitch Barnett. 1 point: Ben Hunt.