Another NRL season is now over, and as the realisation dawns on many fans that they won’t get a chance to whinge about the refs for another six months, the only comfort I can offer is that it also means it’s time revisit my fearless predictions.
For the second night in a row a Nikorima brother has broken English hearts, ensuring rugby league’s World Club Series trophy will stay in Australia following Brisbane’s 42-12 belting of Wigan.
The win, in addition to Friday’s victory by the Sydney Roosters, gave Australian sides an unbeatable 2-0 lead ahead of Sunday’s World Club Challenge between respective premiers North Queensland and Leeds.
Kodi Nikorima bagged a brace of tries in the mauling on Saturday as he stepped up to replicate the starring efforts of younger brother Jayden, who had a hand in five tries during the Roosters’ victory 24 hours earlier.
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett said the young star would reap the benefits of the past 12 months, in which he rose from a little-known utility to be a New Zealand Test player.
“What we did with him last year we’re going to get the benefit of this year,” he said.
“He went away with the New Zealand team, so he’s playing with a huge amount of confidence.
“…it’s just going to be a big benefit for us going forward.”
The Broncos produced a five-star defensive display, regularly repelling Wigan raids on their tryline, while halves Nikorima and Anthony Milford ran amok and winger Corey Oates bagged a double in the seven-tries-to-two victory at DW Stadium.
“I thought we all played well. There were a few boys that came in our side that weren’t really experienced and I think they displayed really good character and played really well,” Milford said.
Wigan’s forwards dominated the early exchanges, but it was a touch of class from Brisbane’s outside backs which broke the deadlock when Oates managed to dot down out wide.
The hulking winger tip-toed the sideline following a Darius Boyd cut-out pass, with the video referee ruling he’d managed to score before his boots touched the sideline.
Luck continued to evade the home side, with hooker Michael McIlorum suffering a horror broken ankle while attempting a tackle on Milford.
He was taken from the field on a stretcher after a lengthy delay before being rushed to hospital.
Nikorima, starting at halfback in place of the suspended Ben Hunt, pounced on a Milford grubber which had rebounded off the goalpost to extended the lead to 12.
His support play was again rewarded in the second half when he was first to a Boyd grubber as the score blew out to 36-6.
Wigan’s only joy came from a sharp first-half try to England centre Dan Sarginson, and a consolation effort to five-eighth George Williams in the dying minutes.
Brisbane’s young halves ensured the match was all-but-over by halftime when they each put a forward into a gaping hole – first Nikorima sending Matt Gillett over out wide before Milford put Jarrod Wallace in under the posts to lock in a 24-6 lead at the break.
Oates bagged his second when the Broncos took advantage of a simple overlap following an 80m run by Brisbane’s England-born winger Greg Eden.
Eden went the distance again not long after, busting the line on another 80m run, but this time was given the reward of a four-pointer of his own to celebrate.
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