Eels bargain buy Bryce Cartwright finished with a try, a hand in two others and a smile on his face to leave Brisbane staring down the barrel of the worst opening two months in club history.
In steamy Darwin conditions the Eels thoroughly broiled the Broncos after a tense opening half-hour, with Brad Arthur's cut-price recruits Cartwright, Isaiah Papali'i and rising prop Oregon Kaufusi sparking a seven-minute, three-try blitz before halftime.
From a 6-6 deadlock the introduction of Cartwright – who was thrown a $150,000 lifeline by Arthur late last year when he had no other NRL options – broke the contest open after Brisbane's big men laid one hell of an early platform up the middle.
It was Cartwright's sharp tip on that had Maika Sivo sneaking across for his second try of three for the night, and proved the turning point in an eventual 46-6 thumping in front of a 12,056 strong-TIO Stadium crowd, the largest NRL turnout in Darwin.
Match: Eels v Broncos
Round 7 -
Venue: TIO Stadium, Darwin
The former Panthers and Titans back-rower – having been through the rugby league wringer numerous times in recent years – produced the type of NRL outing so often tipped for him since his early teens.
"I knew he had ability, I like his body shape and when I spoke to him he more or less indicated it was his last opportunity," Arthur said of Cartwright.
"So we like to get blokes that are not on the outer at clubs, but blokes that we think we can improve and fit into our style of footy.
Defy Impossible: Moses karate kicks it for Gutherson
"We put him in the middle there to get him running the ball because that's what he's good at.
"I know he's got plenty of skill but his skill will come off the back of that and I thought he did really well for us tonight. He gives us another dimension out on that left edge.
"He's still got some work to do but he's slowly getting there and his pre-season was excellent.
"He trained really well and I was disappointed for him that he broke his jaw but he's come back from that pretty good."
Fellow Eels lesser lights Tom Opacic, Papali'i and Kafausi all got across the stripe as well to shoot Parramatta into second spot on the ladder.
For the Broncos though, they now sit above only the winless Bulldogs with one victory from the first seven rounds and a negative 107 points differential.
Quick ball from Cartwright hands Sivo a double
First-year coach Kevin Walters was stand-in captain more than 20 years ago when they last circled such a dismal drain so early in a campaign back in 1999.
The Broncos sported the same 1-6 record after seven weeks that season, but blowout losses to Melbourne, South Sydney and now Parramatta this time round outline the true extent of the rebuild required at Red Hill.
Bookmakers currently have Brisbane as $326 premiership chances, and the prospect of '99-style revival to make the finals not that much shorter.
Asked if Brisbane's bleak prospects would see heads drop in a young squad, Walters was emphatic.
"Not at all. I mean, that's my job, and the rest of the coaching staff is to make sure that we're, you know, prepared well every week," he said.
"So I'm not concerned about that at all. It's a long season. It's a long road. It's a long race. So still plenty of legs to be run here for us."
After all the positive signs on show last week against Penrith, the Darwin drop-off started with just that on the very first play.
Queensland Origin winger Xavier Coates fluffed his take of the game's opening kick-off, with Sivo scoring 90 seconds later in the most telling of omens.
Offloads galore and Opacic has one more
It doubled down on Alex Glenn's late withdrawal due to a calf injury in the warm-up.
A Tevita Pangai jnr square-up kept the Broncos in it as Haas proved a tower of strength through the middle despite observing Ramadan restrictions that meant he could not eat or drink while the sun was up leading into the clash.
His final tally of 184 metres and 34 tackles put teammates to shame, while Sivo's try-scoring appetite out wide put them to the sword.
The Fijian flyer could easily have had four tries inside 44 minutes but for a desperate Pangai jnr tackle late in the first half and a forward pass call against Clint Gutherson.
In between though, Papali'i's 31st minute barge-over, followed by Kaufusi's crumbing effort from a Will Smith batback made for a 24-6 halftime lead.
The Eels simply rolled on soon enough after the break through another lesser light, former Bronco Tom Opacic latching onto a try from Cartwright and Gutherson offloads.
Cartwright got himself on the board for a deserving four-pointer of his own before Sivo completed his own hat-trick.
Mitch Moses took centre stage with a few minutes left and a just few inches to work in as he soccer-kicked twice for Gutherson to dot down.
The Broncos were reduced to little more than bystanders throughout the freakish play, a theme all-too-common once more for the one-time Queensland powerhouse.
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