Tonights favourites the Brisbane Broncos survived a torrid opening battle in their NRL final against the Roosters, getting behind early and looking all but gone before a Wayne Bennett half time chat turned everything around, the 5th ranked team coming out pumped and eventually getting home 24-16.
The Broncos overcame a strong and physical Roosters side early and ran down an initial 8-point halftime deficit with superb tries to outside back Denan Kemp and strong running David Stagg and Tonie Carroll getting bash and bargers of their own.
The victory ensured a home final for the Broncos, most likely next week, though they could earn a week off if there are two upsets in the weekend’s remaining three qualifying finals.
It will be the final send-off for Bennett, who will join St George Illawarra next season after 21 years at the helm of the Broncos.
The Roosters, whose season will remain alive providing two of Canberra, the Dragons and the Warriors don’t win, were left to rue not only the loss but a season-ending broken arm to hooker Riley Brown.
Trailing 16-8 at halftime the Broncos started the second half in spectacular fashion with a contender for team try of the year just two minutes after the break.
They travelled almost 50m in one play and their determination to keep the ball alive saw them string together 12 passes before Kemp pierced the line and crossed out wide.
Hooker Michael Ennis then booted a fine 40-20 kick to put them back on the attack and they took the lead for the first time in the 49th minute when halfback Peter Wallace sent Stagg crashing over the line.
The Broncos extended their lead in the 60th minute when Darren Lockyer put fellow veteran Carroll over out wide and they managed to repel several late Roosters surges.
The first half was among the most brutal seen this season, with big hits and injuries aplenty.
Brisbane prop Joel Clinton was forced from the field and did not return after a bone-rattling hit from Mark O’Meley in the second minute while Ennis, Wallace, Karmichael Hunt and Corey Parker were also on the end of big shots.
Both sides traded penalties before Sia Soliola scored the first try in the 13th minute when he swooped to intercept a Lockyer pass.
Ten minutes later, they stretched their lead even further when Anthony Tupou scored and Craig Fitzgibbon converted to put the Roosters up by 12.
Wallace got the Broncos back in the match when he cleverly stepped his way over the line nine minutes before the break and Fitzgibbon slotted another penalty to give the tricolours their eight-point halftime lead.
BRISBANE 24 (T Carroll D Kemp D Stagg P Wallace tries M Ennis 2 C Parker 2 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 16 (I Soliola A Tupou tries C Fitzgibbon 4 goals) at Sydney Football Stadium. Referee: T Archer.