In the end, Wests Tigers just didn’t have the spark to convert possession and field position into points, their opponents the Brisbane Broncos proving to crafty with the ball in hand – running away winners 34-22 at ANZ Stadium Sydney. The Broncos leaping to the top of the NRL Ladder after tonights win.
The Broncos were all class as they turned on the flair, and while some of it might not have done much good to coach Wayne Bennett’s health, it proved particularly effective as they raced in six tries to four in an entertaining game.
While obviously disappointed, the Tigers gave as good as they got for much of the game, two late tries blowing out the scoreline before Dean Collis scored on the bell.
The Tigers were denied twice inside the opening 12 minutes with Dean Collis and Corey Payten both stopped millimetres short of scoring to complete a frustrating start to the game which included the loss of Todd Payten to a hamstring injury.
Instead it was the Broncos who went over, with Michael Ennis and then Lockyer throwing blind flick passes for Reece Robinson to score out wide.
It was a case of anything you can do I can do better as Dean Kemp upped the razzle-dazzle ante as the former junior soccer star trapped a poor Lockyer pass with a great first touch before toeing through for a 10-0 lead after 20 minutes.
In a sign it was all going the Broncos way the visitors were gifted 50 metres when a Brett Hodgson kick-off was ruled to have gone out on the full, the replay showing Ben Hannant had actually taken the ball out with him from the in-goal.
Drunk on the success of their audacious ball-play, the Broncos continued to take risks and they continued to pay off as Sam Thaiday picked up a loose ball and ran straight through a disorganised defence for a 16-0 lead at the break.
The Tigers took only four minutes to get back into the game after half-time with Ben Te’o scoring his first of the night before Karmichael Hunt – brilliant in making an early comeback from a knee injury – restored Brisbane’s 16-point lead.
Te’o made it a double on the hour and suddenly the Tigers were full of running, and when Mathew Head kicked out wide for Shannon McDonnell to score the lead was down to just four and the Broncos were hanging on for dear life.
Joel Moon bombed a chance to kill off the Tigers when he dropped a Kemp pass five metres short of the line, but there was no stopping Robinson from his double, Chris Lawrence coming up with a poor missed tackle out wide.
Despite Lockyer limping noticeably on his dodgy right knee, Bennett said the Kangaroos skipper would be right to take on New Zealand in the Centenary Test on Friday night, but he was less enthusiastic about his side’s performance.
“I didn’t think it was impressive, I thought we were pretty ordinary, but I’m please you all enjoyed it,” Bennett said.
“You’re never disappointed to get the two points but I was disappointed the way we played in parts of the game.
“We had the game won at half-time and we kept inviting them back into it, we were slack.
“We were lucky tonight, do that against a team their game, we won’t get back in.”
The Tigers said it was always going to be difficult after giving up a 16-point lead, but Hodgson said he was pleased with how his side responded.
“We hung in there and dug deep to come back in there in the second half,” Hodgson said.
Earlier in the year we may have let them get to more of a convincing lead but to come back like we did and give ourselves a chance up until six or seven minutes until full-time .. the effort’s there.”