Lockyer boots Broncos to top of the ladder
by Chris Cox
Sunday May 08, 2005
A last minute field goal to captain, Darren Lockyer has secured the Broncos a thrilling victory over defending premiers Canterbury at Suncorp Stadium and taken his side to the top of the NRL ladder after 9 rounds.
The Broncos fought back from 16-4 down just before half time, and 28-24 down with 5 minutes remaining to score a stirring victory on the back of their inspirational skipper.
After Nate Myles crashed over with 9 minutes remaining to give the Dogs a 28-24 lead, the Broncos needed something special.
Brett Seymour provided with a neat chip kick that Bulldogs winger Matt Utai fumbled, Casey McGuire regaining possession. Four tackles later the Broncos went wide and Karmichael Hunt chimed in as the second man, sliced through a yawning gap and crashed over in the corner under the weight of three defenders.
Lockyer lined up a pressure conversion from the sideline to break the deadlock and watched as it faded agonisingly to the right.
With just three minutes left, it would come down to the next mistake. Neither side provided. However, the Broncos threw caution to the wind and on their final set of the game launched offload after offload and made a whopping 60 metres on 5 plays as Brett Seymour darted for the gap but was brought down.
The ball sprayed out behind the ruck, the ball being scooped back to Lockyer who set himself 35 metres out, snapped and watched the ball sail over the cross bar with less than 60 seconds on the clock. Tim Mander raised the arm and the delirious fans were jumping in the aisles.
The Bulldogs rushed a short kick off, which Utai was able to tap back, only to find the waiting arms of McGuire who ran 55 metres untouched, and the fans screamed their delight at the prompting of back rower Brad Thorn as McGuire put the ball down. Lockyer landed the superfluous conversion for the final 35-28 scoreline.
It was the first time the Broncos had defeated Canterbury at Suncorp Stadium, including their stint prior to 1993. On their four previous meetings the Bulldogs emerged victorious, with their two most recent visits in 2003 and 2004 delivering thrashings, 40-4 and 46-18 respectively.
It also broke a 3-match streak for the Dogs against the Broncos, after Brisbane's last triumph over the blue and white came in 2003 at Telstra Stadium.
The first half was all the Bulldogs, yet the Broncos always stayed in touch. An early mistake by Karmichael Hunt put the Broncos right under pressure and hooker Corey Hughes burrowed over for the Dogs only to be denied by the video referee, who correctly ruled that Roy Asotasi was used as an obstruction.
The Bulldogs maintained pressure in the first 10 minutes but the Broncos hung on. And when the Broncos finally got a chance to attack, Hunt sliced through a gap and gave Leon Bott a saloon passage to the line to score the opening four pointer. Lockyer's conversion sailed wide.
It didn't take long before the Bulldogs hit back, and it was the trademark grubber from Brent Sherwin that provided a try for winger Hazem El Masri. He converted it for a 6-4 lead. Only moments later Sherwin put a cross field kick and it was El Masri again, this time outjumping Bott to score. He failed to convert but the Bulldogs led 10-4.
Sherwin's boot again caused havoc when a 40-20 presented an opportunity for Willie Tonga to slice over, with El Masri's conversion giving them a 16-4 lead.
The Broncos were under the pump and struggling for quality possession. When they finally did, they ran another decoy and for David Stagg that meant bad news. The back rower collided heavily with Jamaal Lolesi, and the youngster suffered severe concussion and a massive swelling appeared almost instantly on his left cheek, almost certainly indicating a fracture. Lolesi suffered a nasty gash but was able to continue.
However, the Broncos retained possession and a neat Seymour grubber bamboozled fullback Luke Patten, who had an airswing trying to clear it and Bott was on the spot to score. Lockyer converted brilliantly from the sideline to reduce the margin to 6-points at 16-10 at the break.
After the break the Broncos suffered more injury headaches when Scott Minto was knocked out in an accidental high shot from Patten. However, Patten earnt the ire of the crowd and the referee with a late cheap shot as Minto was prone on the ground, throwing a swinging forearm to the lanky winger's head.
Soon after Seymour grubbered again and Shaun Berrigan pounced for his 10th try of the season, placing him at the top of the tryscorer's list ahead of Billy Slater. Lockyer converted to level the scores.
Moments later, Lockyer dummied and sliced through himself, then beat Patten with a shimmy and scored behind the posts. His conversion gave them a 22-16 lead.
From the next set Barry Berrigan darted through and put Hunt into space, the fullback dragged down 10 metres short. A penalty came on the next play and Lockyer took the 2 points for an 8-point lead.
However, the Bulldogs weren't going to give up. Braith Anasta pounced on a Barry Berrigan cut out to score a 40 metre intercept try, El Masri's conversion reducing the margin to just 2 points.
And then with just 8 minutes on the clock, following a Darren Mapp error, Sherwin held up a pass neatly for Myles to crash over and the Bulldogs were back in the box seat.
It was another gutsy win for the Broncos, following on from their equally impressive grinding wins against the Dragons and Sharks. Looking at the stats there's no way the Broncos should have won. More mistakes, more missed tackles, less possession. The Broncos scrambling defence was simply too determined.
The forwards lay the foundation neatly, with experienced trio Shane Webcke, Petero Civoniceva and Brad Thorn absolutely outstanding. Corey Parker and Neville Costigan came off the bench to add their own spark, while Darren Smith was the constant factor throughout. Lockyer and Seymour were outstanding in the halves, with the skipper an indisputed man of the match performance.
Casey McGuire deserves a special mention off the bench. The utility player who will forever be dogged by that title played in the centres after Minto left the field and was simply outstanding.
The Bulldogs would be disappointed to have lost, with their errors in attack in the first half costing them dearly. Roy Asotasi was the pick up front, while Charlie Tonga and Nate Myles also caused headaches with powerful running. Sherwin's kicking game was outstanding, however they needed the influence of a gamebreaker like Anasta to push them over the line.
On that score, the Broncos were well in front.