Broncos cruise to top of ladder
by Chris Cox
Sunday May 29, 2005
The Brisbane Broncos have secured outright top spot on the Telstra Premiership at the end of round 12, after a mediocre 36-12 win over South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium.
In front of the smallest home crowd of the season, the Broncos ran in 7 tries to 2 without ever really breaking out of second gear, but secured a crucial two premiership points and added to their already impressive for and against.
The Broncos led 12-8 at half time despite being outenthused for the most part, and put the Rabbitohs to the sword with a four try burst in the space of 20 minutes to open the second half.
Winger Scott Minto was the first to add to the half time score when he took a beautiful Justin Hodges flick pass to cross unopposed in the corner. Darren Lockyer's sideline conversion hit the uprights and bounced away.
Only minutes later, the Broncos worked their pet second man play, and fullback Karmichael Hunt linked with another flick pass to Minto, who in turn sent a flick back inside to Hodges who scored. Lockyer converted for a 22-8 lead.
10 minutes later Hodges secured a controversial double when he was awarded a try by video referee Chris Ward that looked to have three reasons to be disallowed. The first was that when Shaun Berrigan put the kick up, Hodges appeared to be up to a metre in front of him. Hodges pressured Souths' outside backs into dropping the ball, which Minto also appeared to knock on in regathering and passing to back rower Dane Carlaw.
Carlaw then appeared to be effectively held before offloading to Hodges who crossed in the corner. It didn't look like it could possibly be a try, but Ward disagreed. Lockyer failed to convert but the Broncos led by three converted tries at 26-8.
It became 32-8 10 minutes later when Lockyer sent a magic long ball to winger Leon Bott who beat his opposite number and broke into the clear, before drawing fullback Todd Polglase and linking with centre Berrigan to score his second hat trick of the season and take his tryscoring tally to a mammoth 13.
Lockyer earnt a well earned rest after landing the conversion from in front for a 32-8 lead.
South Sydney crossed through winger Wood with 10 minutes remaining, but the Broncos reciprocated in the final minutes when, from a scrum win, the Broncos spread the ball wide. Hunt realised the defence had rushed up too quickly and grubbered ahead to the in goal and Hodges won the race to secure his third try.
It was a solid performance from the Broncos in the second half, but not one that they will look back on with any real pride or pleasure. Hunt though was absolutely outstanding. His involvement in attack was impeccable, but most importantly he showed some real strength in defence. Three times he ran down and tackled Souths players who had made breaks and only had to beat Hunt to score. He was also well positioned when it counted from all kicks. Those are the two areas he has struggled the most since his meteoric rise to first grade last year.
Also strong for the Broncos was back rower Corey Parker. The 2004 Queensland Origin representative has been playing strongly all season, but tonight was easily his best performance of the season. Every hit up was pure quality and he made some stinging hits in defence. Also impressive up front was prop Shane Webcke. He seemed to relish having fresh legs 72 hours after an Origin game that he was not part of and he ran with vigour. The only sour note was that he picked up a corked thigh during the first half and was unable to participate much in the second half.
Petero Civoniceva was visibly tired, while Neville Costigan, Dane Carlaw, Sam Thaiday and Darren Mapp all contributed solidly. Hooker Barry Berrigan was somewhat off the boil, but still provided good service from dummyhalf.
It was truly a night for the outside backs however, with the centres scoring 6 tries between them, and winger Scott Minto the other, and Leon Bott extremely unlucky to be denied a try early in the game on the other side. It was an open affair with plenty of room allowing Lockyer and halfback Brett Seymour, who continues to improve every week, to put some creativity together.
For Souths, five-eighth John Sutton mixed good with bad, while David Fa'alogo and Mark Minichiello were a constant handful up front.
Earlier, Bott looked desperately unlucky not to be given first points when he took a Shaun Berrigan pass and outsprinted the cover to score in the corner. However, after several looks video referee Chris Ward ruled he had lost the ball over the line before grounding it, which was a decision that stunned everyone at the ground.
It didn't take long for Bott's revenge, with the flying winger put in the clear by a beautiful Lockyer long ball. The winger unselfishly gave the ball to Berrigan who raced in to score behind the posts for a 6-0 lead.
South Sydney got a roll on from there on, helped greatly by a string of penalties that seemed very inconsistently ruled by Sean Hampstead. Eventually that turned to points when former Melbourne winger Brad Watts crossed in the corner. Former Bronco Ben Walker converted from the sideline to level at 6-all.
The Rabbitohs hit the lead 8 minutes before half time when Walker landed a penalty from right in front. However, that lead was short lived when Berrigan sliced through from a scrum win 15 metres out from his own line and beat the cover defence to run 85 metres and score under the posts for a 12-8 half time lead.