The NRL Wrap: Finals Week 1

Broncos stay alive
Brisbane Broncos ensured that their 2016 season continued and that their premiership hopes remained alive with a 44-28 win over Gold Coast Titans at Suncorp Stadium. It wasn’t without controversy though as a number of calls went against the visitors, including James Roberts kicking a player in the back moments before Alex Glenn had pounced Ben Hunt’s kick, with the try being given. The Titans gave their all to keep their season alive but come up short, however they bowed out with pride in a spirited display. Broncos always had enough to see off their opponents despite trailing 18-16 at the break. An early double from Glenn in the second period put them on the front foot though and when Kahu, who grabbed a brace of his own in the first 40, put Corey Oates over in the corner they opened a 16-point advantage. Chris McQueen, who scored twice and was arguably the Titans’ best on field, gave them hope towards the end of the contest but the home side saw out the rest of the game to move on to week two.

Sharks bite Raiders late on
Cronulla fought back from 12-0 down inside the first half an hour to end Canberra’s 10-game winning streak and progress to the semi-finals with a 16-14 win. The hosts looked dominant from the off, and could have posted more points had it not been for some herculean line defence from the Sharks. Josh Hodgson opened the scoring after dummying his way over from first receiver and was a crucial part of their first half dominance, however he was forced from the field early in the second half due to an ankle injury which could dent their hopes of reaching the grand final. They opened up a 12-point lead thanks to Jordan Rapana, who raced 90 metres to score, before man-of-the-match Matt Prior picked a perfect line from Michael Ennis’ flat pass to barge his way over. Jarrod Croker tagged on a penalty goal before Hodgson left the field, and soon after Luke Lewis threaded a perfect kick into the corner for Valentine Holmes to pounce. James Maloney added a penalty to level the scores, before kicking the decisive goal six minutes from time after Elliot Whitehead’s second effort in the tackle.

Grand final replay

Melbourne edged a titanic battle at AAMI Park as they progressed to the last four and earned a week off, defeating the reigning premiers 16-10. North Queensland now face a repeat of last season’s Grand Final, as they host Brisbane Broncos in a knock-out clash for a place in the semi-finals. The game was played at a frantic pace in an intriguing battle between Cameron Smith and Jonathan Thurston, with the latter forcing three goal line drop-outs in a row in a purple patch for the visitors. They couldn’t capitalise on those repeat sets though, as Storm’s defence muscled up in a brilliant display which underlined their premiership credentials. Suliasi Vunivalu picked up a loose ball to race away and score the opener, after Smith had knocked over a penalty, but it was level at the break when Lachlan Coote sent Antonio Winterstein over a minute from the break. Soon after Smith’s second penalty goal of the game Jese Bromwich stormed over and scored despite the attention of five defenders, but a slick passing move saw JT and Michael Morgan combine to put Kyle Feldt in out wide. Smith made it a six-point advantage with a third penalty and his side repelled the Cowboys’ attack to progress and force their opponents into a do-or-die clash in Townsville. 

Panthers down Dogs
Penrith Panthers sent Canterbury Bulldogs packing and booked their place in week two of the finals with a stunning second half performance in their 28-18 win. After losing their last three games of the regular season the Bulldogs had limped into the finals, but it started well for them when Moses Mbye dummied his way over for the opener. Penrith were struggling to find a way through their opponents’ dominant defence until young gun Nathan Cleary missed out two men to send Dallin Watene Zeleniak over out wide just before the break. Josh Mansour’s 80 metre kick return at the start of the second half ended with Waqa Blake scoring in the corner before they scored the try of the weekend through Peter Wallace. He was on the end of Tyrone Peachey’s pass, after he had shrugged off a tackle, which came from a move started by in-form fullback Matt Moylan. Peachey then finished off a great move himself, as the ball travelled the width of the field before Moylan sent the centre through a hole in the defence. Mansour wrapped up the game with a brilliant individual effort before Sam Perrett brought the curtain down on his career with a consolation effort and a conversion, but it was too little too late for his side. Now, the Panthers face the Raiders for a place in the semi-finals.

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