The St George Illawarra Dragons have hammered the Brisbane Broncos 48-18 in front of a huge crowd at Suncorp Stadium. The result has eliminated the Broncos from the finals, and has booked the Dragons a finals match-up with the Rabbitohs next week.
The first 20 minutes of the game were very physical, and both teams tested each other several times, trading penalty goals but neither team was able to score a try. There were some big hits exchanged, and both Joe Ofahengaue and James Graham were forced of with HIAs early in the game. The first try went to the Broncos, when Kodi Nikorima made a line-break and setup David Fifita to put the Broncos up 10-2. The Dragons responded to this with a try of their own just minutes later, when Tariq Sims crashed over from short-range. This turned into the spark that lit a fire in the belly of the Dragons, as they dominated the Broncos for the remainder of the first half. Tariq Sims was able to score a hat trick of tries before the break, after back to back penalties and some poor discipline in defense from the Broncos. The Dragons went into the break full of confidence leading 28-10.
In the second half the Broncos tried to push back and score first points to get back in the game, but ultimately couldn’t get over the line. The Dragons scored in the first 10 minutes of the half and pushed the lead out to 34-10. The Broncos didn’t give up though, as they responded with a try to Darius Boyd shortly after to keep their hopes alive. The momentum in the game turned during the next 10 minute period, as the Dragons suffered game ending injuries to Gareth Widdop and Jack De Belin. Widdop re-injured his shoulder in the same play that Kodi Nikorima scored another try for the Broncos, cutting the lead back to 34-18. The Dragons were down on troops, but they would not let the Broncos back into the game, and scored two more tries to put an end to the Broncos year in convincing fashion.
DRAGONS WIN WELL, BUT SUFFER BIG INJURIES
The Dragons were able to demolish the Broncos in front of 47,000 of their home fans, which is something not many other teams have achieved in recent times, especially in the finals. However, this win looks like it will come at a big cost for the Dragons. There are concerns for Gareth Widdop after he re-injured the same shoulder he dislocated six weeks ago, and his season is almost certainly over. Jack De Belin also needed to be helped from the field with about 20 minutes to go in the game, after injuring his ankle badly. He looks doubtful to get back on the field for the game next week against the Rabbitohs, and even if the Dragons are able to win that game, his season may also be over. If the Dragons are going to win next week against the Rabbitohs, their depth will be tested to see if they can turn out another performance like today.
TARIQ SIMS HAT TRICK LIGHTS UP BRONCOS DEFENSE
The Dragons came into this game needed something, or someone, to spark them back into action, after they have gone through a recent run of bad form. Tariq Sims was the man they went to, and he delivered by firing up in a huge way. He scored the try to kick-start Dragons scoring, and it was an important try in the context of the game. The Broncos had just scored through David Fifita, and looked to be picking up momentum. After an error from the Broncos, Sims crashed over from close to the line to swing momentum back towards the Dragons. From here on, every time the Dragons got the ball close to the line, they gave it to the rampaging back-rower, who was able to exploit some flimsy defense from the Broncos to score two more tries by running hard and straight with relative ease.
BRONCOS SEASON ENDS WITH DISAPPOINTING EFFORT
The Broncos came into the finals riding a wave of confidence, after winning their last three games in a row, and beating some good teams such as the Roosters and Rabbitohs. However, the performance they put together was very disappointing and one of their worst defense efforts all season, right at the time when they needed to be at the top of their game. The Dragons were at times brilliant, so credit has to go to them, but the Broncos conceded four tries on their right edge, and the combination of James Roberts and Kodi Nikorima really struggled to handle a rampaging Tariq Sims all afternoon. The loss was especially disappointing for Sam Thaiday, whose incredible 300+ game career comes to an end at the very ground he has seen so much success with the Broncos, Queensland and Australia.
WEEK TWO FINALS MATCH-UPS DECIDED
After the dust settled at the end of this huge win from the Dragons, there are now only six teams remaining to contest the NRL premiership for this year. With the Roosters and Storm securing a week off, next week will continue the sudden death footy with two intriguing match-ups. The Sharks take on the Panthers in a battle of the 4th and 5th placed teams, whilst the second game will feature the victors from today, the 7th placed Dragons, taking on the 3rd placed Rabbitohs. It looks as though the Dragons will be under-strength in that clash, so they will need to dig deep if they are to cause an upset against the Rabbitohs who went the distance against the Storm in Melbourne.
Tries: Tariq Sims 3, Ah Mau, Lafai, Leilua, Dufty
Goals: Widdop 7/7, Lomax 3/3
Drop Goals: N/A
Tries: Fifita, Boyd, Nikorima
Goals: Isaako 3/5
Drop Goals: N/A
Brisbane Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 4 Jordan Kahu, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Sam Thaiday, 17 David Fifita, 12 Tevita Pangai Junior, 13 Josh McGuire
Interchange: 8 Matthew Lodge, 14 Patrick Mago, 16 Korbin Sims, 18 Kontoni Staggs
St George Illawarra Dragons: 1 Matt Dufty, 2 Nene Macdonald, 3 Zac Lomax, 4 Tim Lafai, 5 Jordan Pereira, 6 Gareth Widdop, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 James Graham, 9 Cameron McInnes, 10 Leeson Ah Mau, 11 Tyson Frizell, 12 Tariq Sims, 13 Jack de Belin
Interchange: 14 Jeremy Latimore, 15 Kurt Mann, 16 Blake Lawrie, 17 Luciano Leilua