The Broncos made a huge statement on Friday night, with an important victory over the Sharks in Brisbane. The Broncos dominated the majority of the game, making a statement coming up to the finals series. The win keeps the Broncos comfortably in the top four, while the Sharks could fall out with wins to the Cowboys or Sea Eagles this weekend.
A finals-like win for the Broncos
Brisbane’s huge win over the Titans primed them for arguably their most important game of the year so far, with the defending premiers and a fellow top four side coming to town. The loss of McCullough against Parramatta sent alarm bells through Brisbane, yet it was never an issue on Friday night.
The Broncos were subjected to early pressure from Cronulla, yet getting their first real chance they were able to score, with Matt Gillett breaking the defensive line and scoring in the right corner. From there momentum stuck with the Broncos as they took advantage of their opportunities. 58 percent of first half possession went their way, and they did not disappoint. Darius Boyd scored a great solo try himself as Brisbane continued to pound the Sharks’ defensive line. Completion percentage in the first half for Brisbane was 75 percent, and improved to 79 percent for the full 80 minutes. Ball possession increased in the second half, coinciding with the Sharks making far more mistakes, and the points flowed on. Between 53 and 63 minutes the Broncos had 93 percent of possession, and in that period scored two tries to extend their lead to 24 points.
The atmosphere and intensity of the game was massive, especially early on. The win came with great play, solid attacking output and a promising stint of good form heading into the last three rounds of the season.
Sharks shoot themselves in the foot
The Broncos were easily the better side, yet it came more from the Sharks’ huge number of mistakes. Coming into such a huge game, Coach Shane Flanagan would have been stern to start hard, maintain possession and good field position. The Sharks’ failed to do all and after an early promising set both attacking and defensively, they fell apart at their own hand.
The Sharks had an appalling completion rate, which surprisingly got worse as the game moved forward. The first half was filled with mistakes from Cronulla when they got the ball, and considering the weight of possession going to the Broncos effectively gave them the lead, Cronulla’s ball security would logically get better. That was very wrong, as their completion rate was at 61 percent, a decline from 68 percent in the first half. Both of the Sharks’ tries came against the run of play, and when they built up to attacking plays close to Brisbane’s line, the opportunity went begging from both themselves as Brisbane’s terrific defence. The loss for the Sharks is a hard one, with games against the Cowboys and Roosters now becoming absolute must win scenarios. Their mistakes must be changed if a top four finish s on the cards.
Moga continues to rise
At the start of the season Tautau Moga was labelled as one of the biggest up and coming centres, and abilities that resemble Israel Folau back in his Melbourne and Brisbane days. Moga struggled to involve himself early on, but as the season has moved forward he has become more and more explosive and now is one of Brisbane’s key players.
Moga grabbed a double against the Sharks, scoring Brisbane’s third try which was a great solo run on the left side. His second was almost exactly the same, getting by defenders and scoring in the left corner. He led his team in running metres with 200 in the game, and in the last 30 minutes after scoring his tries and hitting the defensive line hard, he continued to run the ball well and feed Corey Oates on the left side. Leaving the Broncos for the Knights next season was not a huge loss initially, yet now it seems far worse for Brisbane as Moga’s strong run game and quick feet have made him a huge asset to their attack.
Maloney’s return a mixed affair
James Maloney’s return on Friday night was a huge boost for the Sharks heading into Brisbane. His hand, with an inserted plate in it, was thought to not be healed yet. His name however was on the team sheet and that was all that mattered for Sharks fans.
Being his usual self, Maloney became the antagoniser for Cronulla, with penalties conceded consistently throughout the match. His ball playing was nowhere near up to his standard, and his impact on the offensive end was limited. This all made sense though when it appeared there was still swelling in his hand, and he was reportedly feeling a heap of discomfort. Whether his return was heavily premature or not, the Sharks were and still will be adamant he is fit to play. Questions that could now be raised are whether Maloney’s health can fully recover as fast as initially expected, and whether he will be in top form when the finals roll around.
Winning two premierships with two separate clubs shows Maloney’s important contributions. Without him the Sharks will find it hard to make it to the Grand Final qualifiers.
Tries: Gillett (5m), Boyd (35m), Moga (2) (43m, 60m), Oates (64m)
Goals: Milford 6/9
Tries: Lewis (39m), Beale (71m)
Goals: Maloney 1/2