Berrigan hat trick sinks Sea Eagles
by Chris Cox
Friday April 29, 2005

The Brisbane Broncos gave Manly a footballing lesson tonight to leap to the top of the premiership ladder with a 38-12 thrashing at Suncorp Stadium.  The Broncos ran in 8 tries to 2, with centre Shaun Berrigan scoring his first hat trick in the top grade.

In a first half blitz reminiscent of that dished out to Parramatta three weeks ago, the Broncos led 30-0 at the break running in 6 tries.  Manly gave an exhibition of why possession is so important, making constant errors and handing the Broncos 71% of the ball in the first half.

The result was carnage.

It started early, with the Broncos totally dominating field position early.  Lock Darren Smith crossed after a neat pass from Darren Lockyer to get a 6-0 lead after as many minutes.  However, despite constantly pressuring the Manly line, the Broncos failed to come away with points until Shaun Berrigan backed up a Lockyer break in the 17th minute.  Lockyer failed to convert but the Broncos led 10-0.

The Sea Eagles made a mini revival, slicing through only to be brought down by Darren Lockyer short of the line.  Lockyer went on with the tackle and was penalised, and was probably fortunate not to spend time in the sin bin.

The Broncos made their way back down field and after a mix up on the last tackle, Corey Parker kicked ahead, Anthony Watmough fumbled and suddenly the Broncos had another set of six.  Four plays later, Shaun Berrigan crashed over for his second try after some nice leadup work from Neville Costigan for a 16-0 lead.

Manly's luckless night continued when Berrigan grubbered in goal, only for fullback Brett Stewart to pick it up and start what looked like a 100 metre dash for a try. Berrigan had other ideas, rounding up the fleet footed fullback and bundling him into touch.

From the scrum win the Broncos went wide and Justin Hodges scored.

A towering bomb from Lockyer swirled and Stewart fumbled, and that presented a gift try to Neville Costigan on the next play for a 26-0 lead.

And just when Manly fans thought it couldn't get any worse, Karmichael Hunt sliced through and reached out to plant it on the line for a 30-0 lead.

Manly would've hoped for some pride in the second half.  It didn't start well.  Costigan sent a beautiful cut out pass to Berrigan on the last tackle and the centre picked up the third of his hat trick.

Not long after his centre partner Hodges charged for the line and somehow got a round-the-corner pass to winger Scott Minto who scored. At 38-0 fans were starting to wonder just how much the Broncos would win by. Unfortunately the Broncos eased off the accelerator somewhat, and tries to Anthony Watmough and Luke Williamson scored to add some respectability to the scoreline, and in fact win the second half 12-8, but the win was enough to put the Broncos on top of the ladder.

A top performance from the Broncos, but none was better than Berrigan.  His first hat trick wasn't all he did, his defence was rock solid and he was dangerous whenever he handled the ball. Lockyer, Brett Seymour, Hunt, Brad Thorn, Shane Webcke and Petero Civoniceva were outstanding.  David Stagg was tireless despite a nasty nead knock from Kylie Leuluai that landed the Sea Eagles' replacement on report.

But right up there with Berrigan was Justin Hodges' performance on the other side of the field.  In only his second game back from injury he was outstanding in his most natural position of centre.  Despite some heavy attention from the Sea Eagles, he never lost his cool, a continuance of the change in attitude that has marked his return to Red Hill.

The Eagles would be keen to forget about this game as soon as possible.  Not much is gained from dissecting the performance, except the fact they can come back again next week and try and redeem themselves.

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