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'It rattled me a little bit': Haas booed, three binned and a comeback for the ages as Broncos run continues

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27th May, 2022
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Brisbane have come back from 24-4 down to win the Queensland derby 35-24 in a chaotic clash in which three men sent to the sin bin and Payne Haas booed on his every touch.

Haas was the centre of attention, given his much-publicised pleading for a release from his contract, but even his star was overshadowed by a manic, incident-packed game that saw the Titans surrender a huge lead at Suncorp Stadium for the second year in succession.

The prop admitted that the booing threw him off his game, telling Nine “it rattled me a little bit” in his post-match interview.

“It’s been tough, I’m usually not one to get rattled but when I heard the boos come out when I got the ball it rattled me a little bit. But I composed myself, just stayed in the game and did my job for the team.”

Coach Kevin Walters admitted that the contract drama might have affected his whole side’s performance as well as that of his star player.

“First half it may have but second half they got their heads on and away they went,” he said.

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“All I try to do is get around Payne. I don’t think it’ll drag on. He’s the best prop in the game and we don’t want to lose the bets prop in the game. I can’t see Payne Haas playing reserve grade.

“He showed his commitment tonight. While he’s got a Broncos jersey on, he’ll always do that.”

Walters said that he was disappointed by Haas’ decision, but was confident that the Broncos management would be able to come to a deal with the player’s representatives.

“We’re not going to release him,” said the coach. “He’s been a big part of our club for a few years now and I believe will be into the future.

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“I think the players are pretty resilient these days, and rugby league is a business. For mine, I was just making sure that we stuck together and that all the distractions that happened this week didn’t affect what was happening on the field.”

While the Broncos rightly will get credit for their comeback, the manner in which the Titans collapsed was spectacular. Two of the tries they conceded – one from their own kick off, another from a horrendous dropped kick – were entirely of their own creation.

It will infuriate Justin Holbrook, because for so long, the Titans were excellent in defence and clinical in attack. Their inability to maintain intensity for any length of time seems chronic: they have now won 1 in 8, and that win came in golden point.

“It’s really disappointing, that’s for sure,” said a visibly devastated Holbrook. “I can’t get over this quickly. We had a great week, prepared well, we get out there and then we’re in control of the game at 18-0. We should have kept going that way.

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“We can’t settle it down, can’t get it back, and we need players on the field that can get that sorted. Our two sin bins were just dumb when we’re in complete control of the game.

“If we were getting beat 40-0 and they did all that reckless stuff I’d take a lot more blame. But were in a great position to win the game and we found a way to throw it away, which is hard to take.

“We deserve to feel like this. We let our club and fans down. We played our biggest rivals and no doubt a lot of Gold Coast fans would have been so happy at 24-4, and then the finishing score I don’t expect any of us to feel good about it.”

It was hard not to feel for Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, who was immense: the lock made 18 runs in the first half alone and topped out at well over 200m running. When he was replaced on the hour mark, he was the clear man of the match.

Despite his stirring performance, the Titans captain apologised to the media in the post-match press conference for his role in a crucial try for the Broncos, and said that the fault for the defeat lay with the players rather than Holbrook.

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“One thing I’ll say is that it’s on us players,” he said. “Justin and the coaches are doing a lot behind the scenes for us. They get the week right and us individually need to get it right, it’s not the coaches.”

The Broncos, on the other hand, are now unbeaten in six and fourth place on the NRL ladder. Their catalyst was Ezra Mam, in just his second game of first grade, who buzzed around everything good that Brisbane did, scoring one, creating another and making 21 tackles from halfback.

“Half time couldn’t come quick enough for us to get them all settled again,” said Walters of the comeback. “They all know, it’s just a case of taking that moment to reset and then go again.

“These guys have been great this year and I knew that they weren’t playing at the level that they were capable of. The Titans were playing some good footy, but our guys weren’t in there physically.

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“We spoke about it at half time and, to their credit, they came out and started to play like the Broncos we know they are.

“We weren’t too much worried about the scoreboard. We were concerned about our defence, and we fixed that up, we were first to score in the second half which give the guys a but of confidence and they went on from it from there.

“There’s been a few distractions this week for the playing group and I thought they came together beautifully in that second 40.”

The first major incident came via the bunker. Jordan Riki was the first to go to the bin, with the Broncos backrower adjudged by the TV officials to have hit Toby Sexton in a late and reckless manner after he had passed the ball. It was close, but on balance, probably the correct call.

With Riki sat down, the Titans struck. Jayden Campbell, so impressive since his return to first grade, caught Mam out on an edge and snuck in front of him to open the scoring.

The Titans then withstood serious pressure despite the man advantage – Haas going very close – before scoring again seconds after Riki returned through Corey Thompson. Selwyn Cobbo, much touted for Origin selection, was caught jamming in by Toby Sexton and could only watch as the ball sailed over his head to the Gold Coast winger.

The Broncos kept piling on the pressure, but were missing the creativity of Adam Reynolds in attack and were repelled by the Titans. Too often, they opted for the crashover rather than hitting their strike players wider out.

When the Gold Coast returned to good ball, they again took advantage. The score was the product of multiple offloads – first Fa’asuamaleaui, then David Fifita – and a superb kick from Toby Sexton that was met by an onrushing AJ Brimson.

Sam McIntyre and Esan Marsters of the Titans were then binned for professional fouls, leaving the Broncos with a two-man advantage late in the half.

It seemed inevitable that the advantage would lead to points, and it did through Selwyn Cobbo. The Broncos, however, were immediately pegged back by the 11-man Titans as Fifita caught them napping in defence and rushed in from dummy half.

The second half began with another bombed try, this time with Corey Oates dropping the ball over the line. When the Broncos did get in, it was almost in spite of themselves, as Te Maire Martin attempted to throw a pass, only for Brian Kelly to knock it back into his path over the line.

The next came immediately, and was perhaps even more chaotic. The Titans attempted a short kick off, but dribbled the ball to Riki and he returned it straight back to the house. It was a catastrophic play from the Gold Coast.

The hara-kiri continued. Jamayne Isaako dropped a kick under little pressure and from the next tackle, Herbie Farnworth was able to push his way over – aided by the lack of markers stationed by the Titans. Suddenly, a 24-4 lead had become 24-22 with 20 minutes to play.

Brisbane were soon in front. Mam was the architect, sending Oates into space down the touchline, from which he kicked inside for Kurt Capewell to score.

The rookie would seal the deal. Mam put Farnworth outside of Brian Kelly and the English centre returned the ball to him for his first try in the NRL.

He was even showing up in defence, though again the Titans did not help themselves. Needing to score next to stand chance, they lost their way in the tackle count, allowing Mam to wrap up Campbell on the last.

Tyson Gamble added a late field goal to ice the cake and made it 31 unanswered points for the Broncos. The comeback had been remarkable, even if the Titans collapsing again was not.

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