New halves end Warriors’ winning-streak
NEW halves pairing Anthony Milford and Jack Bird ignited Brisbane's season on Saturday as the embattled Broncos burst the Warriors' early season bubble with a 27-18 boilover in Auckland.
The out-of-sorts Broncos were given little hope of toppling the unbeaten Warriors after the visitors lost key duo Matt Gillett and Kodi Nikorima just 24 hours before the clash at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.
But no club thrives on a siege mentality quite like the Broncos - and it was the rejigged scrumbase alliance of Milford and Bird who pulled the strings to sensationally snap the Warriors' five-game winning streak.
The gutsy win was built on a Josh McGuire-inspired Broncos pack that finally muscled up, providing the latitude for the Milford-Bird union to orchestrate Brisbane's fourth win in 17 starts on New Zealand soil.
Now Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has a selection migraine. Does he recall halfback Nikorima from injury this week? Or does he stick with Milford and Bird - the latter relished being closer to the action - for Friday night's blockbuster against the Storm at Suncorp Stadium.
Whatever he decides, the certainty is this: when their pack fires up, the Broncos can do damage.
With McGuire and Matt Lodge running with venom, Brisbane led 15-14 at half-time. Young guns Jaydn Su'A and Jamayne Isaako joined the party after the break, scoring three tries between them in superb solo displays to stun the Warriors and underscore the special talents emerging at Red Hill.
Without Gillett and Nikorima, the Broncos had every reason to capitulate on New Zealand soil against the red-hot Warriors. But the Broncos relish life under siege. This was their perfect stage.
Ball control and forward dominance have been Brisbane's problem areas in the opening five weeks. On Saturday, they addressed both.
Despite the slippery conditions, the Broncos' first-half completion rate was almost flawless at 92 per cent. It gave Brisbane stability and the ability to build pressure on a Warriors side that was seriously tested in the midfield.
Brisbane's pack has lacked a spiritual leader this season but they found one on Saturday in lock McGuire. The Maroons ironman was outstanding. Even when Brisbane's biggest player, Lodge, hobbled off in the 23rd minute, it didn't deter McGuire, who injected venom and vigour into the Broncos' pack.
McGuire will be back in the Origin arena this season and if NSW hierarchy have any gumption, they will blood his clubmate James Roberts in sky blue.
The Broncos centre is a damaging fusion of pace and power and that was evident in the 22nd minute when he carved up the Warriors in midfield, releasing Isaako for his first NRL career try and a crucial 12-8 lead.
The Broncos deserved their one-point half-time lead and it was a testament to their attitude that they slammed the door shut on the Warriors after the break.
Bennett has challenged his rising stars to stand up this season and how they responded on Saturday.
Boom back-rower Su'A was magnificent, crossing for a 45th-minute solo try, and when Isaako sensationally touched down millimetres inside the touchline, the Mt Smart shock was complete.
BRISBANE 27 (J Isaako 2 C Oates J Su'a tries J Isaako 5 goals A Milford field goal) bt NZ WARRIORS 18 (D Fusitua B Green S Johnson tries S Johnson 3 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referee: Adam Gee, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski. Crowd: 15,636