Kotoni Staggs is hitting his straps and Tyson Gamble had his best game to date as the Brisbane Broncos defeated the North Queensland Cowboys.
The two Queensland sides have developed a healthy rivalry in recent years and it was the Broncos who got up after some earlier back-and-forth.
It was Jordan Riki who helped create the first opportunity for the Broncos after a bullocking run on the right edge.
His pass found Tyson Gamble who grubbered ahead and the Cowboys, unable to grab the ball, were beaten to the punch by Jamayne Isaako.
Staggs was ruled to knock-on in the lead-up, however, though the Broncos would open the scoring soon after.
Gamble was again on hand to grubber through for Isaako and this time, the try was awarded.
The Cowboys were in all sorts defensively early on and some crafty work from Tesi Niu saw the Broncos score their second.
Isaako kicked ahead and as the ball bounced along the ground, Niu kicked it back towards his teammates before veteran Alex Glenn finished the play off to score.
The Cowboys slowly worked their way back into the contest and were rewarded when Jake Granville threw a dummy and went over to score.
That momentum was short-lived, however, when Gamble and Staggs combined, as the centre put on some lovely footwork to beat his opponent and score.
Down but not out, the Cowboys dug deep and were able to score through Tom Dearden who jinked his way past the Broncos for their second try.
Riki was having a field day on the right edge as he made a second linebreak and found Brodie Croft on his inside to score.
The Broncos momentum would continue in the second half when Staggs scored his second.
Finding himself out wide, Staggs was able to stay in the field of play and produce a nice finish in the corner.
Kyle Feldt always finds a way to somehow score on the corner and he capitalised on a Scott Drinkwater cut-out pass to do just that.
A contentious knock-on call denied Feldt a second try soon after and that would be all she wrote.
Gamble would slot a field goal to make it a three-score game before the half was involved yet again.
Gamble’s chip over the top evaded Isaako but not Riki who capped off his tremendous performance with a try.
Despite a mooted move to five-eighth for 2022, Broncos coach Kevin Walters said that for now, Staggs will stay at centre.
He’s not moving anywhere [positionally] at the moment I wouldn’t have thought,” Walters said.
“We’ll have a whole pre-season to sort that out with him. The thing is he’s got to be comfortable playing that.”
Walters also praised Gamble for the way he was able to dictate terms and lead from the front.
“Tyson is a competitive guy, big strong body. I love his competitive nature more than anything. He’s got a few rough edges,” Walters continued.
“He likes directing the opposition as well which is what we’re trying to get out of his game.
“He’s still learning himself and doing a terrific job.”
Cowboys coach Todd Payten lamented his side’s performance and expected them to be better prepared for the Queensland derby.
“The most disappointing part for me was coming off the back of six losses and coming into the Queensland derby,” Payten said.
“We were beaten from start to finish. It was really disappointing.
“They were just running harder and made more tough decisions than us by a mile.”
NRL News Player of the Game
3. Jordan Riki (BRI)
2. Tyson Gamble (BRI)
1. Kotoni Staggs (BRI)