The Brisbane Broncos have made a big statement for the second week in a row, thrashing the Premiers Cronulla to further secure their position in the race for the all important Top 4 at Suncorp Stadium tonight, leaving the Sharks in disarray just a month out from the commencement of the 2017 Finals Series.
After piling on 54 unanswered points against the Titans last week, the Broncos continued their all out attacking style, piling on five tries to two in another impressive performance from Wayne Bennett's men. Broncos centre and new Knights signing Tautau Moga was outstanding for the home side, scoring two sensational individual tries, while Queensland players Matt Gillett and Darius Boyd were also strong performers.
The defending premiers were simply awful in their skipper Paul Gallen's 300th first grade match in a very disappointing performance from Shane Flanagan's side, who made an uncharacteristic 16 errors and a whopping 54 missed tackles, in worrying signs for their chances of going back to back in 2017.
Given the occasion of Paul Gallen's 300th match, the Sharks were expected to shoot out of the blocks from the outset, however it was the home side that took the ascendancy, when in their first trip into their attacking zone, Queensland backrower Matt Gillett powered onto a Kodi Nikorima short ball, who beat Sharks fullback Valentine Holmes to crash over for the first try of the night. Anthony Milford assumed the kicking duties and made no mistake and Brisbane were off to a superb start leading 6-0 in as many minutes.
Brisbane dominated possession, with their line speed and play the balls having the defending premiers on the back foot. Halves Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford were a menace for the Sharks early, and it was Milford who put Jordan Kahu in some space on the right hand side, the Kiwi international then found speedster James Roberts who looked certain to score, but for a desperate tackle from Sharks five-eighth James Maloney. The Sharks then gave away a penalty from the ensuing play and Milford extended the home side's lead 8-0.
Wayne's 600th Broncos match - plenty for him to smile about #NRLBroncosSharks pic.twitter.com/21aHMY17OU
— Brisbane Broncos (@brisbanebroncos) August 11, 2017
The Sharks struggled to complete their sets in the first half, putting themselves under enormous pressure and it finally took its toll, when off the back of a Wade Graham error, Kodi Nikorima put fullback Darius Boyd into some space, the Australian fullback then sold a dummy to hit a gap in between Ricky Leutele and James Maloney. He then spun away from a Valentine Holmes cover tackle to score a superb try. Milford converted to make it 14-0 nearing in on halftime.
The defending premiers however showed why they were given that title, when just before the break they took advantage of a late penalty by backing themselves close to the line and it paid huge dividends when Maloney hit Clive Churchill Medalist Luke Lewis who crashed over for a crucial try. Maloney converted and despite a poor showing in the first half, the Broncos lead 14-6 at the break, despite the home sides dominance.
The Sharks would have been buoyed by the scoreline at the break, however they were quickly reminded which team was in control, when blockbusting centre Tautau Moga was put into some space on the right edge thanks to some great service from Darius Boyd. The Knights bound centre put on a wicked fend on his opposite Kurt Capewell to crash over in the corner and with Milford converting from the sideline the Broncos extended their lead to 20-6 early in the second half.
Cronulla continued to struggle to complete their sets, making fundamental errors with the ball in hand and when five-eighth James Maloney collected Darius Boyd high right in front of the posts, the Broncos took no chances, with Milford converting a simple shot at goal to extend the lead to 22-6.
Minutes later, Milford attempted a kick on the last, which rebounded off Andrew Fifita's leg, which then bounced into the path of Ben Hunt who found Tautau Moga again in some space and the lanky centre again finished superbly, fending away Chad Townsend to score his second try of the night.
Another simple error from the Sharks, gave the Broncos another opportunity to put a nail in the coffin and they hammered down hard, when Anthony Milford hit an unmarked Corey Oates on the chest with a superb cut out ball close to the line to secure victory for the home side.
Wasn't your night @PaulGallen13 but congratulations on an wonderful 300 game career so far
— Brisbane Broncos (@brisbanebroncos) August 11, 2017
Former Bronco Gerard Beale then picked up a consolation try for the visitors to narrow the gap to twenty points, before Anthony Milford added another penalty late in the game for the Broncos to run out convincing winners over the Sharks by 32-10.
Brisbane's win sees them for now move to second on for and against, with the Roosters facing the first placed Storm tomorrow afternoon, which will determine if they remain there at the completion of Round 23. The Broncos will look to keep their electric form going next week, when they host the Dragons at Suncorp Stadium next Friday night.
Flanagan: I don't think you can say we've been really bad. We've had some good games but we need to be better. #SharksForever
— Cronulla Sharks FC (@Cronulla_Sharks) August 11, 2017
Cronulla meanwhile will need to put this poor performance behind them and regroup during the week, before they face another tough trip to Queensland, where they will face the Cowboys in Townsville next Saturday night in a crucial game for their Top 4 aspirations.