Gutsy Broncos outlast Panthers
The Brisbane Broncos have put together a courageous defensive effort to beat the Penrith Panthers 13-6 at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, finishing the match with just one fit player on the bench.
The battered Broncos goal-line defence repelled raid after raid from the Panthers at different stages of the night, with Wayne Bennett's men showing no self-preservation.
Sam Thaiday, Corey Oates and Jai Arrow all failed to finish the game injured, but their teammates just kept turning up.
This effort and determination in defence is what would please coach Wayne Bennett the most after he was left disappointed with their previous efforts against the Sydney Roosters one week earlier.
There was only one try scored in the first 40 minutes and it was the result of a superb ball from hooker Ben Hunt who put Oates through a gaping hole. Brisbane's hulking winger put his foot down and did not look back, running 55 metres to score in the left corner. Jordan Kahu couldn't convert from the sideline, leaving the Broncos' lead at four points after seven minutes.
Kahu extended Brisbane's lead to six in the 14th minute, slotting a penalty goal from right in front of the uprights.
The Broncos continued their dominant start to the match in the 16th minute, with second-row forward Alex Glenn breaking through Penrith's line before passing to Oates who knocked on just as Brisbane's attack looked as if it could produce more points.
A positive start to the match was soon soured when Oates suffered a sickening head injury, colliding with teammate Anthony Milford at full pace in the 21st minute. The friendly fire left Oates knocked out cold and stretchered off in worrying scenes that silenced the Suncorp Stadium crowd.
The injuries continued in the dying minutes of the half, with Penrith five-eighth Tyrone May coming off the field with a knee complaint.
It remained 6-0 as the half-time hooter sounded and the Panthers knew they would need to score first in the second half to stay in the match.
Instead Penrith came out of the sheds flat and the Broncos made them pay through James Roberts, who scored off a 40-metre run in the 47th minute. He put the ball down under the posts and Kahu kicked truly to give Brisbane a 12-0 lead.
The Panthers' season was now on life support but its heart started to beat when Reagan Campbell-Gillard scored under the posts in the 64th minute. Nathan Cleary converted over the black dot to cut the Broncos' lead to six.
Thaiday then joined the injured cavalry in the 68th minute, knocking himself out while trying to make a tackle on Josh Mansour.
Brisbane steadied soon after Thaiday's injury, with Kahu taking it upon himself to extend the Broncos' lead to seven in the 71st minute with a field goal.
It was a tense last nine minutes but Brisbane held on, booking a spot in the preliminary finals where they will meet the Storm in Melbourne.
Brisbane Broncos 13 (Oates, Roberts tries; Kahu 2 goals; Kahu field goal) defeated Penrith Panthers 6 (Campbell-Gillard try, Cleary goal) at Suncorp Stadium. Half-time: Broncos 6-0. Crowd: 38,623.