Things started messily when the Broncos hosted the Titans at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Two minutes in, Kotoni Staggs gave away the first penalty with a flop, before Jarrod Wallace coughed up a short ball from Tyrone Roberts. Moments later, Alex Glenn made a mistake while trying to collect a pass from Matt Lodge, meaning that Dale Copley’s decision to allow the football to bounce into touch about eight minutes in, despite considerable pressure from the kick chase, felt like the gesture of leadership and consolidation that had been lacking from both sides.
The Titans didn’t score off the scrum feed, but they got an additional shot at the line when Tevita Pangai Junior lost the football halfway through the next set. Still, the momentum of Copley’s opening gesture started to leak away, with an accidental offside from Wallace on the second tackle preventing Gold Coast from making the most of Pangai’s error. At the end of the next set, Copley tried to clean up the footy in his right hand, but couldn’t quite secure it, leaving it open for Gehamat Shibasaki to scoot in and attempt to put down his first four points in the NRL.
Like Dylan Napa’s putdown under the posts in Origin 1, this was a marginal effort that was called no try – possibly because it would have been impossible to deem it a try without encouraging further scrutiny of the call on Napa on Wednesday night. All of Gold Coast’s recent rhythm had depended on Copley making the right call earlier on under the kick chase, so the away team would have been in a bad state if Copley’s decision here had cost them that opening advantage, and that opening surge.
Fortunately for the sky blue supporters in the crowd, Gold Coast scored on their very next set, thanks to a series of well-timed cut-out passes to AJ Brimson, who sent through a deft grubber for Brian Kelly to scoop up and score immediately. With Roberts adding the extras, the Titans were 6-0, while the Broncos learned that Tom Dearden would be off for the rest of the game, having been replaced by Andrew McCullough five minutes in after suffering an ankle complication.
The Broncos wasted no time on the restart following Kelly’s try, as Darius Boyd spearheaded a three-man defensive effort that forced a second error from Wallace, this time during the play-the-ball. Boyd followed up with a cut-out pass that almost sent Richie Kennar across the line in Corey Oates’ corner, in the ex-Rabbitoh’s first match in Brisbane colours. From there, the Broncos headed right, then straightened the play, but it was now Pangai’s turn to make a double error, knocking the football on in goal as both teams scrambled for it at the tail end of a Brisbane kick.Embed from Getty Images
Staggs now followed Wallace and Pangai with double errors – this time an escorts penalty – but Gold Coast kicked too far at the end of the next set, giving the Broncos seven tackles for their troubles. With the messiness of the opening ten minutes starting to slip back into the game, and Wallace, Pangai and Staggs recapitulating their opening mistakes, both sides needed a one-man effort to get the rhythm rolling again – especially Brisbane, who were cruising along with no clear focus or direction.
Roberts provided the Titans with just this one-man effort a minute later, collecting the footy from Nathan Peats before bursting through the line about twenty metres out from the chalk, where he broke away from Lodge and Glenn before curving past the last line of defence to score right beneath the posts. All it took for Roberts’ linebreak was a simple dummy to the right, forcing the Broncos to ask some big questions of themselves as Roberts slammed to ground for his 600th point in the NRL.
It was a classic captain’s try, putting the Titans twelve ahead once Roberts had added the extras. Not only did this see Roberts reach the 600 mark, but it was also the first time he had even scored against the Broncos – the only club he hadn’t scored against to date in his career. As he booted the Steeden through the posts towards his own magnified image on the screen directly behind them, this felt like a crucial moment for the Gold Coast five-eighth’s leadership energy so far this year.
Nevertheless, Turpin got the ball back abruptly on the restart following a low tackle on Keegan Hipgrave. While Glenn came close to crashing over of dummy half in the left corner a moment later, it was another Turpin-Hipgrave clash that resulted in the next four points, as a short ball from McCullough set up the Brisbane hooker to adopt a more halfback-like approach, twisting and spinning through Hipgrave before curving around to score directly beneath the posts
A minute out from half time, the Titans recovered their twelve point lead, thanks again to a superb sequence of cut-out passes, but this time across to the right edge of their attack. Jesse Arthars came up with the try assist, copping a low tackle from Staggs while drawing Kennar in off his line, before making the best offload of the game – a flick pass that felt like a compressed harbor bridge effort, soaring a couple of metres in the air before Anthony Don gathered it into his chest to score.Embed from Getty Images
All of the conversions so far had been pretty straightforward, so it was rousing for the away crowd to see Roberts boot through a terrifc sideline effort as the siren rang out. At first, this seemed to suggest a torrent of Gold Coast points after the players returned from the sheds, but the first ten minutes of the second stanza passed without any scoring, devolving into a similar error-ridden pattern to the first half, despite a terrific pair of bombs from Roberts, and a dropout for Brisbane, to start.
With Pangai leaking his third penalty – for pressure on the kicker, in a pretty harsh call – Roberts sent through two points to put his team beyond a two converted try lead. It was a big contrast to last week’s game against the Cowboys, when goal kicking proved to be the Titans’ downfall, but the Broncos weren’t done yet, as Staggs managed to secure a dropout on the kickoff, and Brisbane put in a fairly good attacking set after Roberts booted the Steeden halfway down the field in response.
While the Broncos didn’t score here, a huge hit from Turpin on Kelly was a statement of purpose, especially with Jayden Su’A and Matt Lodge following up, while Lodge’s high shot on Hipgrave was even more aggressive, even if it suggested a certain desperation as well. Things got worse for Gold Coast when Tyrone Peachey opted for a no-look flick pass right on the line, only for the footy to bounce off Kelly’s legs instead of finding him on the chest.
As Turpin scooped it up and moved his way back down the field, he seemed to looking for the ghost of James Roberts, but had to settle for Shibasaki, who lost the ball almost immediately. The Broncos’ frustration was growing more palpable with every second, and Lodge gave it expression with a second high shot, this time on Moeaki Fotuaika. The hit was more lazy than malicious, but it still didn’t look good, especially since the Titans were confident enough to tap and go instead of taking a kick.
They came very close to scoring on their left edge, where a cut-out pass from Roberts would probably have sealed the deal if Shibasaki hadn’t brushed it from his hand, preventing the Broncos picking up the footy and continuing back down the field when Roberts lost possession. Nevertheless, this did prevent a try on Gold Coast’s left edge, although the visitors made up for it immediately out of the scrum feed, when Kelly spearheaded a massive, rapid movement out to their right corner.Embed from Getty Images
Don collected the footy from Kelly and came to ground about ten centimetres out from the chalk, thanks in large part to a trysaver from Boyd. Wisely, he chose to avoid any risk of a double movement, instead opting for a rapid play-the-ball that set up Kelly to continue the momentum of his previous run by crashing over for the next four Gold Coast points. The Titans were now quadruple the Broncos, with Boyd desperately barking orders at his team while Roberts set up another brilliant sideline conversion – this time directly into the late winter sun, which was setting over Suncorp.
By this point, the Broncos had to score for pride as much as anything else, especially since the long weekend had attracted a massive Sunday afternoon crowd expecting another home win after the Maroons’ victory over the Blues on Wednesday night. Kennar now stepped up, collecting a Gold Coast kick at high speed, and laying the foundation for a big run from Su’A that saw the Titans forced to double down on their defence after having laid down the pressure over the last thirty minutes.
Roberts, in particular, seemed a bit panicky during this sequence, reaching out an arm to play at a pass from Turpin, gifting the Broncos six again. Brisbane wasted no time in shifting the ball back across to their left edge, in a silky sequence that started with an offload from Lodge, and ended with a catch-and-pass from Glenn that could have floated forward in the hands of a lesser player, but was inflected beautifully here, setting up Staggs to slam down the next four Brisbane points.
While Jamayne Isaako bent the ball through the posts as quickly as possible, the Broncos would have to wait until the last five minutes for their next and final try, which was put down by Turpin off some late vision from Anthony Milford. It was the very definition of a consolation try – a reminder of what the Broncos could have done if they’d consolidated earlier, and a rallying point for when they travel to Bankwest to take on the Eels in Round 14. Meanwhile, this was one of the best games of the year for Gold Coast, who’ve kept Brisbane out of the top eight, and who’ll be keen for another upset when they host the Warriors at Cbus on Friday.