David Fifita dazzled and new fullback Jamayne Isaako stood tall as the Broncos crashed North Queensland’s stadium-opening party with a 28-21 win at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Friday night.
Fifita conjured a try out of nothing in the 57th minute, ripping the Cowboys line apart from more than 60 metres out and leaving Coen Hess and Esan Marsters in his wake before putting a subtle goose step and then a sidestep on Val Holmes and racing away to deliver yet another reminder of his awesome potential.
Isaako, elevated into the starting lineup after the devastating loss of Jack Bird to an ACL tear, scored a try, set up another and had a further two line break assists while running for a stunning 176 metres.
Hooker Jake Turpin and new halves combination Anthony Milford and Brodie Croft were on song on the back of another dynamic display by prop Payne Haas and back-rower Fifita.
The 12 hours prior to kick-off had been a rollercoaster off the field as the coronavirus saga took its own twists and turns.
The opening 12 minutes on the field at Townsville's new showpiece stadium was also drama-charged after a nervous start by the home side.
Kyle Feldt kicked out on the full from the kick-off and in the second minute Tevita Pangai Jnr was put on report for a high shot on Cowboys centre Justin O’Neill while he was on the ground.
Match: Cowboys v Broncos
Round 1 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
O’Neill failed his HIA after leaving the field and was replaced by Mitch Dunn.
Holmes lost the ball in a tackle with his first touch and spilled a Milford spiral bomb minutes later which gave Brisbane the ball inside the quarter.
A dummy by Turpin flummoxed the Cowboys defence and he dived over for the first try in the 12th minute.
A huge tackle by Gavin Cooper on Haas from the restart jolted the ball free and in the ensuing set a flying Holmes went over after creative work by Michael Morgan and Scott Drinkwater.
Brisbane’s right edge attack then clicked into gear with Croft and Isaako combing to send Kotoni Staggs over and give Brisbane a 12-4 lead in the 22nd minute.
Drinkwater and Morgan looked most dangerous when they combined to link with Holmes and it was that combination that sent Feldt over out wide in the 34th minute.
Fifita continues to do the impossible
Morgan lost his captain’s challenge when he was ruled to have lost the ball in a tackle by Rhys Kennedy, but looked far from happy with the decision.
On the stroke of half-time Morgan landed a 40 metre field goal to narrow Brisbane’s lead to 12-9.
After the break the Broncos started on fire with a super bust by Isaako and then a one-handed offload to Pangai giving the Broncos field position. A perfectly weighted Croft cross-field kick bounced Pangai’s way and gave Brisbane an 18-9 lead.
Staggs came off in the 54th minute with a leg strain and was replaced by Herbie Farnworth but that did not stop the Broncos juggernaut.
Fifita lodged his early nomination for try of the year and three minutes later Isaako and Pangai combined again with the new Broncos fullback finishing the movement to give the visitors a stunning 28-9 lead.
Drinkwater put Cooper over soon afterwards and when Isaako coughed the ball up in a tackle for Hampton to score in the 76th minute the Broncos lead had been cut to seven points.
It was too little too late. The Broncos deserved their win and sent a warning to the rest of the competition that their new look spine is a potent combination on the back of Haas and company.
That "company" includes Fifita at the top of the list with his solo try thrilling coacg Anthony Seibold.
"That was fantastic. That was individual brilliance," Seibold said.
"We were actually going a little bit sideways that set. As soon as you get David one--on-one he is hard to handle.
"Tevita on the other edge is hard to handle as well so as long as we can create momentum for them we will put pressure on opposition teams."
Holmes scores his first try back in the NRL