Thursday night games are back for the run to the finals, and naturally enough the Brisbane Broncos feature again. In 2018 they played on Thursday eight times, this year it’s seven.
Brisbane have piled on the points in a crucial victory that has all but ended Gold Coast’s faint NRL finals hopes and made even Wayne Bennett smile.
The Broncos’ 34-0 win over the Titans on the Gold Coast on Sunday was their biggest all season, improving a for-and-against figure that stood at -40 before kick off.
A third successive win pushed them to seventh and the Titans (6-10) four wins off the pace with eight games remaining.
None of the Broncos’ nine previous wins this season had been by more than nine points, a fact not missed on an unusually jovial Bennett.
“Well it was nice to help our for and against enormously … we needed to get to that place and (now) we’re there,” the Brisbane coach said amid laughter.
“We’ve got seven players missing today (through injury and Origin duty) … put another team on the park just about and it just shows we’ve got good depth and quality players coming through, which makes good clubs.”
Trailing 8-0 after Kodi Nikorima opened the scoring in the second minute, the Titans looked to have a reply when Kevin Proctor busted through a gap.
But Ashley Taylor’s short pass was ruled forward, while a mysterious knock-on ruling against a sure-handed Ryan James soon after took the wind out of their sails in front of 18,005 fans.
Exciting teenage centre Kotoni Staggs then jumped and gathered one-handed before throwing off Michael Gordon for a match-turning try.
Halfback Taylor had a night to forget, throwing two forward passes and missing touch by a big margin when looking for extra metres following a penalty in a sloppy first half that saw Brisbane pile on 20 unanswered points.
Taylor obstructed a chaser in the second half to continue an error-riddled night that had rookie coach Garth Brennan spinning in disgust in his chair.
A hamstring injury to Dale Copley compounded problems while Proctor played despite vomiting and diarrhoea from a virus over the weekend threatening to keep him out of the game.
The lop-sided contest followed a club-worst 54-0 thrashing at the same ground last season and reinstated the Broncos’ dominance over their Queensland rivals after the Titans’ upset win in Brisbane earlier this season.
“We were never in the fight to be honest; it was a day where we probably beat ourselves,” Brennan said.
“We’ll end up where we deserve to end up (on the ladder) … so if we play like that we deserve not to be in the semi-finals … today was a step back, no doubt about that.”