The Brisbane Broncos paid homage to their 1992 premiership side with a resounding 32-18 victory over St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium despite missing 11 eligible first graders due to Origin or injury.
It was definitely a return of the 'Baby Broncos' tag today at Suncorp with this Broncos side almost looking unrecognisable to the side that took to the park last weekend against North Queensland. It was clear in the opening stages that St George would take leaps out of the Cowboys handbook of targeting a wounded Adam Reynolds, but Tariq Sims skated too close to the mark and was sin-binned inside the opening five minutes by Grant Atkins after hitting Reynolds late with "force and causing a whiplash action". Brisbane would quickly capitalise on the extra man advantage when Brenko Lee got a magical pass away to Delouise Hoeter to cross for his first try in his NRL career, a wonderful moment for a man who's worked so hard over seven seasons to reach this point.
The Dragons would hang on for the rest of the sin bin period and when Sims returned to the field (momentarily), the Saints took the lead following a wonderfully worked set play which saw Cody Ramsey fly onto a Talatau Amone pass and outpace Tesi Niu to go all the way to the try-line and with Lomax's conversion, the Dragons had a narrow advantage. Sims would earn another trip to the sin bin with 15 minutes to play in the opening stanza when he hit Rhys Kennedy with a shoulder to the head, making Sims the first player since Kane Evans to earn two trips to the sin bin in the same game, although replays suggested Sims was lucky to return this afternoon.
Much like the first stint, Brisbane capitalised almost immediately when Niu spun his way around some pedestrian Dragons defence to score and with Reynolds converting, Brisbane led by four. St George fired back almost immediately when Moses Suli continued his excellent form this season by powering past four defenders on his way to the try line and regaining the lead for the Saints. However, a cheap penalty against Zac Lomax was the catalyst for the turning point at half-time when Kotoni Staggs ran past Suli to crash over and give the Broncos a 16-12 half-time advantage.
The second half was a comedy of errors from both sides early with the half beginning with both sides kicking the ball dead giving the other a golden opportunity to convert. St George was missing Ben Hunt exponentially tonight and as good as Amone and Sullivan have been in their limited action, tonight showed that they are still incredibly raw at the NRL level and need to improve their short kicking games as well as their game management in the opposition red zone with many opportunities going astray to reduce the gap.
Hoeter grabbed his second try ten minutes into the second half finishing off a lovely set play from Niu who had his hands in absolutely everything tonight. Four minutes later, Kobe Hetherington went straight through a yawning gap before linking up with Niu before Ezra Mam finished off a lovely play to extend the margin beyond two possessions. Brisbane sealed the game off the game's following set when Reynolds and Niu linked up with Jordan Pereira down the right-wing before he kicked back in field to find Staggs who collected the footy and scored his second try. St George nabbed a consolation try in the final ten when Ramsey grabbed his second off a lovely offload from Jack Bird but it was in vein as Brisbane sealed an important win without their stars.
Brisbane has their final QLD derby match of the season against the Titans on Saturday night while the Dragons have a vital match against a desperate Roosters side in Gosford on Saturday afternoon.