PHIL LUTTON June 29, 2012
BIG-TIME PLAYERS MISSING doesn't always equal a bad spectacle. The Broncos had seven engulfed by Origin and the Sharks two. But this game delivered more action than plenty we've seen from full-strength sides this year. There was some genuine feeling out there, some huge defence and some great long-distance tries. It was brutal at times and a treat to watch at others.
KEEP HOLDING ON Shane Flanagan would have had a coronary if his side had dropped the ball after racing out to a 16-0 lead. The Sharks looked like they would go further ahead but the Broncos wouldn't go away, even when they lost fullback Josh Hoffman following a bit shot from Wade Graham. Graham was put on report in a decision that will intensify debate on the shoulder charge.
BIG HEART Brisbane didn't get the result but showed enormous courage and persistance to get close. All of their big guns bar Peter Wallace are in Origin camp and they overcame some injuries along the way to threaten. They seemed to be rolling along nicely before Wallace had his pass intercepted by Nathan Stapleton in the 56th minute. He went 95m to score and the Broncos never recovered from the hammer blow.
FULLTIME Cronulla 26 beat Brisbane 12. That was a brutal night out at Suncorp Stadium.
78th min TRY to the Sharks. Comical stuff in the end from a desperate Broncos. The Wallace grubber bounced off Graham, who kicked ahead but was beaten in the chase by Beale. But Maranta and Gibb were fighting over the loose ball and in the end, Best kicked it out, picked it up and crosses for his second. Sharks 26 Broncos 12.
75th min A little grubber from McCullough is regathered but he ran out of ideas at the last line of defence. He should have put it to the boot again - I'll make sure to tell him that in the rooms. Sure he'll be very interested in my feedback. Sharks lead 22-12 and are going to escape with the win tonight.
71st min Spirited stuff from the Broncos at the moment. Great series of plays to get up the park then a penalty as Wallace is taken high. But Stapleton ends up with the ball again and runs 50m, weaving and bobbing until Glenn levels him with a shoulder. Sharks.... knock it on. Score remains 22-12. Broncos need a try in the next three or four minutes to be any hope.
68th min Slight delay there folks. Technical issues. The internet - it will never catch on. Sharks finishing on top here. Brisbane a few players down in this second half and look like they emptied the tank about 10 minutes ago. All changed with the Stapleton intercept. Sharks should win it with a 22-12 lead.
64th min Time just getting away from the Broncos now if they want to pin the Sharks back. That's great stuff from Graham again for Cronulla as he chases hard to earn his side another set of six. He's been outrageously good tonight. Sharks 22 Broncos 12.
59th min Wallace loses it in the tackle and he's getting frustrated. Wallace and Graham, former teammates at Penrith, have been exchanging pleasantries over the past 10 minutes or so. Lots of spite. Great to see. Sharks 22 Broncos 12.
56th min TRY to the Sharks! Intercept to Stapleton off the Wallace pass and he goes 95m under the posts. It was a massive moment after all. Chanced his arm - if he missed, Brisbane were in. What a play from Stapleton and he turns the match on its head again. Sharks 22 Broncos 12.
54th min Hello, hello. Brisbane might be a chance here. The Sharks lose it right on their line and Brisbane pack the scrum with a fresh set of six up their sleeve. Massive moment here.
51st min Wallace is good with the extras and it's 16-12 to the Sharks as the Broncos attack again. This will be a famous win if they can get over the line from here.
48th min What year is it? Brisbane have got one against the feed and Glenn has scored! TRY to Alex Glenn and that's the first win against the feed since about 1984. Suggestion of a double movement as Glenn bounced over but that's fine on replay. Things are getting interesting. It's 16-10 with Wallace lining up the kick.
46th min Ouch. Jarrod Wallace is given a bit of an uppercut by Jeremy Smith and turns the lights out. Smith on report. He dived on a ball and Wallace came for the flop. Smith stuck out the big arm and connected but Wallace's sudden lack of movement looked a bit, er, exagerated. He's off the field but up and about. This game has had some nasty moments.
42nd min Jack Reed out of action this half. A quad strain, the great Steve Mascord tells me. Big blow for a Broncos side already missing a heap of players. Sharks lead 16-6.
41st min Play has resumed at Suncorp. The fun never ends in the NRL.
HALFTIME There's not many big names but this is a good game. The Sharks go to the break leading 16-6. Talking point from that 40 minutes is Wade Graham, who has been superb for the Sharks but has found himself on report for a shot on Josh Hoffman. More debate about the shoulder charge about to unfold.
38th min Brisbane threatening again but that grubber from Wallace is, with a conservative guess, about 30m long. What was he thinking? Almost bounced up into the crowd. Wasted chance for his side there and the Sharks are going to keep control of the scoreboard at the break.
36th min Wallace bolts away but can't finish the move! Just had the fullback to beat but elected to throw the pass through traffic. Didn't get to Norman and the Sharks clear it up. Wallace should have just gone himself there - too unselfish for his own good. Sharks 16 Brisbane 6.
34th min Peter Wallace kicks it from the sideline. It's 16-6. We might have a game on our hands after all.
31st min Brisbane finally putting some concerted pressure on the Sharks line here but clearly losing the physical battle. They've done it though - TRY to Whitchurch on debut in the corner. Amen. Sharks 16 Broncos 4.
28th min Jack Reed pinned the ears back beside the red locks and might have scored... nope... held up. More good defence from the Sharks but Brisbane go again. Poor kick on the fifth and final tackle doesn't do them any favours. Looks as if Beale has now gone to fullback and he has been HAMMERED by Graham. Another massive shot that is wasted by Jeremy Smith, who finishes him off with a swinging arm and is penalised. That shot by Graham was no different to the shot he put on Hoffman earlier which earned him a report.
25th min Hoffman has been taken into the Brisbane rooms for treatment. He has had a rough couple of weeks. Greg Inglis smashed him into tiny atoms a few times last week and he's been given more of the same tonight. He's a tough kid but you can only take so much. Sharks still with that 16-0 lead and playing a high-quality game of rugby league tonight.
22nd min Hoffman taken off the field after copping that huge shot from Graham. Copley to fullback and Aaron Whitchurch moves onto the wing from the bench. Some brilliant defence in the meantime from Cronulla as they scythe down Alex Glenn centimetres out to retain their clean sheet.
20th min Hoffman drops it charging out of his own 20m zone and the Sharks are in again by the looks of this. Once again, they are heading to the video as Hoffman lies on the deck. It's no try this time and Wade Graham is put on report. He smashed Hoffman in the Broncos in-goal to force the spill. It's judged as a shoulder-to-face shot but that should be a try. The hit was a ripper. Sharks hard done by there. Score remains 16-0.
17th min Townsend kicks it from the touchline. Having a big night this bloke. Sharks get out to 16-0 and aren't playing like the outsiders they were listed at today. Brisbane not even close to being in this game at the moment.
15th min Alex Glenn just got belted with a shoulder charge from Ben Pomeroy. A classic case of Pomeroyd rage. And now he's gone over for a TRY it would seem. Gone upstairs again but this is a try. Pomeroy just shrugged off a weak tackle of Reed. Flicked him over the sideline like he was throwing out the garbage. Count it - Sharks 14 Broncos 0.
13th min Broncos fans chanting something after that decision from the video referee. I can't quite make it out but can only suggest they are showing their appreciation for his diligent approach to that touch-and-go call. Townsend kicks it, btw. It's 10-0. You'll be loving this Sharks fans. Looking the goods.
12th min Sharks may have snuck a try, although if they did they are fairly subdued in their celebrations. Ross and Hoffman (yes, Ben Ross) compete for the bomb. Has he knocked on? Looks dicey. Seen enough of these given of late though. Onto the 74th replay... and it's..... a TRY to the Sharks! They lead 8-0 with a kick right in front about to be taken.
10th min The Sharks keep Brisbane out and work their way to the other end with relative ease. Plenty of enthusiasm on their part tonight. Brisbane hold on but are on the wrong end of the early momentum. Sharks lead 4-0. Wade Graham full of beans.
7th min Chad Townsend can't convert from the sideline. Sharks skip out to a 4-0 advantage and Brisbane yet to really get their hands on the ball.
6th min TRY to the Sharks. Tore them apart on the left with ease and Colin Best dives over. It's 4-0.
5th min Wallace with the 70m drop-out. That helps.
4th min Pretty good attacking set from the Sharks. Earn themselves an extra crack as Maranta runs into his own player trying to escape back into the field of play. No score thus far.
2nd min They are playing alright. Josh McGuire dishing out some early pain. He must have been very close fo Queensland selection. And he's even from Queensland. The Sharks have only won once at this ground but get a handy penalty now.
7.52pm Be still my beating heart. We have some players on the field, who almost look as if they are contemplating starting the game. I'll keep you updated on this important development.
7.43pm Official kick-off was scheduled for 7.35pm. At the moment, both sides are still out warming up. We may possibly get going before 8pm but no certainty. Those TV slots are just estimates. Obviously.
Preamble You can tell it's Origin when you look through game-night rosters and have to take to the media guide to try and work out who is who. That's the scenario facing Brisbane tonight, who have seven regulars tied up in State of Origin. The Sharks have been pillaged to a lesser extent, with Todd Carney and Paul Gallen in camp playing cards and watching rom-coms with Ricky Stuart.
Brisbane are without Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett, Ben Te'o, Justin Hodges, Ben Hannant, Petero Civoniceva and Corey Parker. Never mind - they flogged the Roosters with a similar line-up before Origin one but at least had Te'o on hand, who scored the opening try in the 40-22 win. In that same week, the Sharks beat the Titans 22-12 and coped relatively well without their two best players.
Brisbane are warm favourites tonight at home and have some pretty decent kids coming into their side. Lachlan Maranta, who played five-eighth in the Queensland Cup on the weekend but moves to the wing tonight, looks a superb talent, while Brendon Gibb brings some muscle to the backrow. The Sharks smash them in experience but will need to keep pace with a Broncos side likely to play at a high-tempo from the outset.