A matchup of competition heavyweights, the Broncos ran away with the points in a convincing 30-20 win over the Raiders in Canberra on Saturday night. Strong performances from Benji Marshall and Ben Hunt in the halves inspired Brisbane to a vital win, as the Raiders continue to fall down the ladder as the season moves forward.
Marshall and Hunt hit form at the right time
One thing I believed was important for the Broncos this year was their depth during the Origin period. Signing Benji Marshall to some at first may have been confusing, but now it makes sense. The injury blow to Anthony Milford and the pain that came with it will now whisk away for fans, as there is a new pairing on the block. Marshall started the game with a pass depicting his career – daring, risky but reliable. Marshall spun a 15 metre pass off the kick-off, and continued to do damage from the halves with some menacing running and elusive foot work early on. From the start it was a perfect performance from the former Kiwi International, and Brisbane blossomed with his composure, experience and class at the position. Marshall assisted in 2 tries, and created some flashy plays with his hands and his boot.
Nikorima started the game in the 7 jersey, but was brought off late in the first half to see Ben Hunt take the field. Hunt did not disappoint, as his ball running and kicking game were solid to end the firth half. Come the second half, Hunt’s level of play increased, and managed to take the line on numerous times. A great run off a penalty, as well as breaking the line and nearly setting up James Roberts for a try, who unfortunately dropped the ball, all cemented his status as one of the best ball runners in the game right now. Hunt’s kicking game in the second half was brilliant, with numerous kicks finding open space and pressuring the Raiders to move the ball from deep inside their own half. Both men were instrumental in a vital game during a vital time of the season.
High-tempo shows the best of the Broncos
The Broncos are known as a strong defensive team who often take a while to get into games, and play at their own pace. Against the Raiders it almost seemed necessary to play to Canberra’s style and match them as good as they could, and Brisbane did just that.
Their early play was quickly influenced by Marshall in the halves, and they ran the ball at the Raiders with plenty of intent. The Raiders were good early on scoring two tries to counter Corey Oates’s early try, and seemed the slightly more potent side regardless of the even statistics. That didn’t discourage the Broncos however, as they continued to power forward and attack the defensive line with the likes of Gillett and Glenn leading the charge. The second half was where the Broncos flourished, coming out of the gates the better side, looking far more focussed on winning the game. The pace and intensity of the Broncos rose, and the Raiders almost couldn’t handle being beaten at their own game. A hit from Tautau Moga on Elliot Whitehead, and later a strong tackle by Pangai Jr. on Jack Wighton from a kick chase highlighted the Broncos’ tough defence to start the second, as well as Matt Gillett continuing to pressure Aidan Sezer on his kicking game. The Raiders were forced into many mistakes, and the Broncos ran in two tries within the first 20 minutes of the half to gain full control.
If there is one thing to cheer up a fan base, it is to play brilliant football during the toughest period of the season. The Broncos did just that, and their depth highlighted their terrific performance against one of the game’s top sides (on paper).
Raiders’ season a failure so far
If one side was brilliant, the other was logically dreadful, and the Raiders weren’t far from it. The first half was even, with the Raiders having a lead despite controlling slightly less of the ball. Both sides exhibited a great attack, and threatened the opposing defensive lines multiple times. Where it stopped for Canberra was the second half, and they looked a different side.
Consistent errors and failing to match the pace of the Broncos were their main issues. The likes of Rapana and Leilua, Austin and Sezer and Josh Papali all seemed inexistent on the field. Despite their late surge in the final 10 minutes, the Broncos handled the onslaught easily, with a sense of desperation creeping into the Raiders’ style of play. What makes it worse for the Green Machine is taking into account the expectations of the side coming into this year. Despite his 2016 Campaign, Ricky Stuart has not been a success in the NRL as a coach, so maybe high hopes were over hyped from the start. Nevertheless, something in the morale or team culture needs to change in the side to turn the season around, as their losses continue to pile up.
Gillett up there for Dally M Medal
The system for the Dally M Medal has always confused me to a degree over its fairness and accuracy, as the likes of Greg Inglis in 2013, and Anthony Milford in 2015 weren’t even placed in the top 10 for voting. Nevertheless the system is what it is, and if Matt Gillett isn’t even in the top 5 right now something is seriously wrong with the NRL and the voters.
Gillett has been arguably the best player in the competition this year, along with Cameron Smith from the Storm and Paul Vaughan from the Dragons. His defensive intensity is unmatched in the competition, with his ability to take on any runner and bring them down with tremendous force. His ball running, which has always been terrific, has improved another notch and the ability to break tackles and gain as many metres as possible seems to come naturally. Against the Raiders he had the most running metres for a forward, with 146 and added 2 line breaks along with his 2 tries.
A man who has gained representative honours and credibility, and a man who should be up for the big prize at the end of the season, Gillett is on a tear.
Tries: Oates (6m), Glenn (22m), Gillett (2) (50m, 80m), Ofahengaue (58m)
Goals: Kahu 5/6
Tries: Wighton (11m), Crocker (14m), Cotric (34m), Leilua (68m)
Goals: Crocker 2/4