An inspired second-half performance spearheaded by Kurt Baptiste wasn’t enough for the Canberra Raiders to overcome the Brisbane Broncos tonight, going down 26-18 at Suncorp Stadium.
Both sides came into the match with contrasting fortunes. The Raiders were flying high after three solid wins in a row while the Broncos were starting to feel the heat after three consecutive losses.
There was one late positional change for the Raiders, with Sia Soliola moving into the starting team at lock and Luke Bateman shifting to the bench. The Broncos surprisingly opted to move Sam Thaiday and Adam Blair to the bench, a move that paid dividends as the Broncos dominated the middle section of the game.
The Broncos kicked off and choose wisely to steer the ball to the right, avoiding Junior Paulo on the left. Instead it was Vaughan who powered up the field for the first hit-up of the game.
In the first twenty minutes the Raiders had the upper hand over the Broncos, enjoying better field position and possession. Unfortunately they couldn’t convert it into points, going close twice on the right edge.
It was the duo of the moment that almost got the Raiders on the board first, after Paulo squeezed out an offload that gave the Raiders superior numbers on the right. Leilua sent Rapana free past the Broncos defence with a trademark flick pass, but unfortunately the pass was called forward.
Nearing 25 minutes the Broncos finally broke the scoring deadlock. Sustained pressure saw the Raiders defensive line in disarray and Corey Parker was able to find enough space to score. The try was a blow to the Raiders who had failed to capitalise on earlier opportunities.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the last ten minutes of the first-half ended in misery. Errors coming out of their own half gifted the Broncos field position on three occasions. It was the Queensland fullback, Darius Boyd, who took advantage of space on the right on two occasions to extend the Broncos lead to 18-0.
After improved defensive performances in recent weeks, it was a bad patch for the Raiders who saw the match slipping out of their grasp.
Down 18 points at the half the Raiders had serious work to do in the second half to get back in the game.
It took only four minutes for the Broncos to inflict more punishment once play got back underway. A strong attacking chance for the Raiders ended early when Hodgson’s grubber went dead. The Broncos duly marched back up the field and Boyd continued his red-hot form with a third try.
The Raiders finally found a hole in the Broncos defence with 20 minutes remaining. Smart play by Baptiste, who had recently come onto the field, saw him duck out of dummyhalf to surprise the Broncos defence. Croker converted from the sideline to cut the deficit to 18 points.
Inspired by big runs by Paulo and Papalii the Raiders started to gain an advantage over the Broncos. A makeshift last-tackle banana kick by Sezer was knocked back by Rapana to Austin who was able to stroll across the line. The Raiders had a sniff of a miracle comeback and with Croker converting the deficit was cut to 12 points with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Another attacking raid soon after went close, but it was the Broncos who marched up the field and put the game beyond doubt with a penalty goal that sent the lead back up to 14 points.
A fantastic late try to Kurt Baptiste added respectability to the scoreboard, but ultimately the Broncos proved too good at their home fortress of Suncorp Stadium.
Zac Santo was excellent in his debut match for the Raiders, twice denying the Broncos almost certain tries.
The Raiders have the bye in Round 15, and have 17 days to rest and recuperate before taking on the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday, June 26.
Brisbane Broncos 26 (Parker, Boyd 3. Parker 4/4, 1 pen) defeated the Canberra Raiders 18 (Baptiste 2, Austin. Croker 3/3)