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Broncos take advantage of home comforts while Sea Eagles stuck in purgatory after 'hosts' lose thriller in Brisbane

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Expert
17th May, 2024
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It’s no surprise Manly are opting out of hosting a Magic Round game each year against Brisbane.

Although it helps the club’s finances, it causes an annual dent to their finals prospects.

And so it was at Suncorp Stadium on the opening night of Magic Round with the Broncos scrambling to a victory over the Sea Eagles.

They raced to an early 12-0 lead and withstood a Sea Eagles comeback in the second half to grind out a 13-12 win with back-up halfback Jock Madden booting the clutch field goal with four minutes remaining.

If only the Sea Eagles had been playing this match at their supposed fortress in Brookvale instead of taking the easy money to host a home game not only in Brisbane but against the Broncos.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Jock and what he brings to the team. He’s a different type of player to Adam Reynolds, but tonight we saw a cool head in a tough period,” Broncos coach Kevin Walters said.

Broncos bucking trend without Reynolds

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Brisbane are doing enough to keep their head above water while Adam Reynolds is sidelined with a ruptured bicep.

They were also without Reece Walsh or this Manly meeting after the star fullback was given Magic Round off with a minor knee problem.

Star prop Payne Haas suited up for Brisbane despite news breaking prior to the match that his father Gregor is facing serious drug charges in the Philippines.

The Broncos haven’t taken on a legitimate top-four contender since Reynolds went down a couple of weeks ago but the way in which they have pummelled Parramatta and accounted for Manly suggests they can remain in the finals hunt while their star playmaker is out.

They are knocking on the door of the top four with a 7-4 record and as they head into the State of Origin schedule when the workload for their stars is about to go up a notch, they’re in strong shape even though they won’t see Reynolds on the field until August at the earliest.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 17: Haumole Olakau'atu of the Sea Eagles tries the evade the tackle of Ezra Mam of the Broncos during the round 11 NRL match between Manly Sea Eagles and Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, on May 17, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Haumole Olakau’atu tries the evade the tackle of Ezra Mam. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Brisbane took only six minutes to cross the stripe when Brendan Piakura cut through Daly Cherry-Evans and Reuben Garrick on the edge. 

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Manly were a player down for ten minutes when prop Taniela Paseka committed the most amateur of professional fouls on Kotoni Staggs following a Selwyn Cobbo break. 

Staggs capitalised a minute later when he crossed to make it 12-0 in as many minutes.

The Sea Eagles were able to stem the bleeding while Paseka was off and kept the Broncos honest throughout the remainder of the first half without ever threatening to take the ascendancy.

They finally found a way over the try line early in the 50th minute when Garrick made amends for his earlier defensive blunder by surging onto a questionable pass from Haumole Olakau’atu to halve the deficit.

Garrick would like his time over from a play in the 68th minute when he outpaced Ezra Mam down the right touchline but kicked ahead for himsel but skewed it off the edge of his boot over the sideline as Cobbo converged.

The Sea Eagles levelled the scores a few minutes later when Tolu Koula’s touch pass put Raymond Tuaimolo Veaga over in the corner and Garrick nailed the sideline conversion.

Cobbo was strong all round at the back with Walsh out and the club’s other option Tristan Sailor also in the casualty ward.

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“He only found out yesterday after training he was playing fullback. It’s a totally different role to centre obviously, but he did some really good stuff at the back,” Walters said.

“He doesn’t care what the score is, he just plays Selwyn so I thought he was really good for us – particularly some of his carries and also the high balls he caught there at critical times.”

Sea Eagles in strife 

Manly are sliding towards the purgatory of being stuck in the middle of the ladder with no hope of doing anything in the playoffs even if they get that far.

Their track record when Tom Trbojevic is out injured in recent years is poor and even though there are a couple of bye rounds while he is out with a hamstring tear, their immediate prospects look dim.

They are sitting outside the top eight with a 5-5 record plus an unlucky draw. 

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It is shaping up as another season of what might have been at Brookvale.

They have no alternative but to keep banking on Trbojevic getting through a full season without his hamstrings or another ailment flaring up. 

But it’s a risky proposition for the club given he has an unfortunate habit of not being able to stay on the park.

Koula had some decent moments at fullback and the Sea Eagles are hardly shot ducks while their first-choice No.1 is again out but their only real hope of going anywhere this season is to finish in the top four and that goal is already looking unlikely.

“I thought they were really tough,” coach Anthony Seibold said after their third straight loss on the back of defeats to the Dolphins and Raiders.

“There was a real hard edge of how we played our game, and probably Tolu Koula was a classic example. He got a really nasty knock to his AC joint but stayed on the field and kept fighting really hard.”

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