The Brisbane Broncos have created history, winning their first finals fixture at Suncorp Stadium and advancing to the preliminary finals. The six-time premiers defeating this years Minor Premiers St George Illawarra by 24-10 in front of just over 50,000 screaming fans.
Brisbane opened the game with brutal defence, starving the Dragons of field position and forcing countless errors in the first ten minutes, before a double to Karmichael Hunt broke the Saints' resolve. To the visitors' credit, they turned the momentum back in their direction as the half wound down, Brett Morris getting one back on the Broncos and Soward converting to put the Dragons back in the contest. He'd missed a penalty from 40 metres out earlier in the game which many think killed the Dragons' chances of any momentum. Brisbane took the 12-6 lead to the halftime break but the Saints looked like they could take the game with an improved effort.
The second half started positively for the Dragons, but they failed to penetrate the Broncos line with any great resolve. The Broncos intensity lifted again however, and after Sam Thaiday fell painfully short of the line, Peter Wallace set up a fifth tackle pearlier across-field for Jharal Yow Yeh and Brisbane extended their lead to 18-6.
Errors continued to cruel the chances of the Minor Premiers, a shocking completion rate giving Brisbane possession after possession and it told as Lagi Setu pounced on a Lockyer grubber to send Brisbane out to an unassailable 24-6 lead.
The Dragons had plenty of opportunity to strike back and with twenty minutes to go seemed to dominate most of possession right to the final whistle. Countless repeat sets went without points until Brett Morris went in for his second try out wide with fifteen ticks of the clock left. The Dragons might've still been in it, but Soward sent the conversion wide and the Broncos maintained a 14-point lead.
Try as they might, neither side could post further points, not even Corey Parker from 30 metres out was able to add a penalty goal as the clock wound down, the shot going wide. The most notable events in the game from the Broncos' perspective will no doubt be the alleged trip Karmichael Hunt put on Soward in the first half, and the terrible ligament damage Peter Wallace sustained late in the second half as Brisbane were looking to shore up the game.
So it's curtains for St George Illawarra. The Dragons are the first team under the McIntyre system to go out winless after claiming the minor premiership, and their coach Wayne Bennett remains winless at Suncorp Stadium in finals football. Many questions will be asked in the off-season, but their achievements are still many this year, after last year's disappointing 7th place fade-out.
It's Preliminary Final time now in the NRL, and week three shapes up as follows:
Friday, ANZ Stadium - Bulldogs v Eels - 7:45pm Toyota Cup - Dragons v Tigers - 5:30pm Arrive Alive Cup - 3:35pm
Saturday, Etihad Stadium, Melbourne - Storm v Broncos - 7:45pm Toyota Cup - Storm v Broncos - 5:30pm
There's bound to be plenty of discussion about the Dragons elimination and the hopes of the remaining teams over the coming weeks, so join the talk on LeagueUnlimited.com's Front Row Forums - click here to add your thoughts.
Brisbane Broncos 24 def St George Illawarra Dragons 10
Finals - Week 2 - Saturday September 19th, 2009 07:45pm Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Referee: Tony Archer & Ben Cummins
Sideline Officials: Paul Holland & Jeff Younis
Video Referee: Paul Simpkins Crowd: 50,225 Halftime: Brisbane Broncos 12 St George Illawarra Dragons 6
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Share your thoughts and comments about today's game - click here to discuss the Broncos v Dragons Semi Final!
Sudden death. That famous term takes on new meaning tonight in what many consider rugby league's new headquarters, Suncorp Stadium. Two records are going on the line tonight and one will be broken - neither Wayne Bennett or the Brisbane Broncos have ever won a finals encounter at this ground, unbelievably. Most importantly, the loser tonight will see curtains for 2009, and must look to the next decade for their next competitive NRL game. The winner is "blessed" with a trip to Melbourne next week to take on competition favourites the Storm for a place in the 2009 NRL Grand Final.
Team news: Well, my job is made easy tonight. Justin Hodges has been cleared for the maroon & gold mob, meaning both teams will go into this game as per program. Dragons reserve Jarrod Saffy drops off the five man bench.
BRONCOS: 1. Karmichael Hunt 2. Antonio Winterstein 3. Israel Folau 4. Justin Hodges 5. Jharal Yow Yeh 6. Darren Lockyer (C) 7. Peter Wallace 8. Nick Kenny 9. Andrew McCullough 10. David Taylor 11. Ashton Sims 12. Sam Thaiday 13. Corey Parker Interchange: 14. Lagi Setu 15. Joel Clinton 16. Tonie Carroll 17. Alex Glenn DRAGONS: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Brett Morris 3. Beau Scott 4. Matt Cooper 5. Wendell Sailor 6. Jamie Soward 7. Ben Hornby (C) 8. Justin Poore 9. Dean Young 10. Michael Weyman 11. Matt Prior 12. Ben Creagh 13. Jeremy Smith Intechange: 14. Dan Hunt 15. Neville Costigan 16. Nathan Fien 17. Jason Nightingale
The atmosphere is building, with plenty of support for both teams crammed into the 52,500 capacity stadium in Milton, QLD. Kickoff will be approximately 7:55pm. Stay tuned for a finals classic!
Want audio to go with your Live Update? Daniel is calling the game LIVE on totalsport. Keep track at http://www.live365.com/stations/totalsport.
The Saints are making their way down the tunnel onto Suncorp Stadium, where they haven't lost since 2004.
Darren Lockyer leads the Brisbane Broncos onto the ground. We're just about ready to go....
Kickoff and Nick Kenny and Ashton Sims smash Justin Poore in the first tackle. Bruising opening as the the first set kick is charged down. Six again for Saints deep inside their own half.
2 min: PENALTY Broncos - Tony Archer finds reason to penalise Michael Weyman for a high shot. Brisbane will start the new set inside Dragons' territory.
4 min: Lockyer bombs on five for Sailor's wing, Big Dell has no trouble taking the ball.
5 min: The Dragons really getting beaten up by the Broncos' defence, forced to kick from deep inside their own half. Brisbane's fifth tackle option this set is another bomb, this time Wallace to Morris' wing, but Darius Boyd manages to take this one with ease as well.
7 min: A cheeky grubber from Darren Lockyer finds itself caught in Jamie Soward's feet, and bobbles dead. Saints line drop-out, more attacking footy for Brisbane.
8 min: Lockyer chips it into the in-goal but Soward fields it on the full this time. Dragons 20m tap.
10 min: Cummins has dudded the Dragons big-time here, a bomb on Saints' first attacking foray is dropped by Winterstein but the refs have missed it upon the Dragons' Matt Prior being tackled and asked for a handover to Brisbane.
11 min: PENALTY Dragons - inside the ten Brisbane. They're going for goal. From 42 metres out. Why?
12 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons Soward misses from long range. 20m drop-out required now from Brisbane. 0-all
13 min: The Saints lose the ball 35m out from the Brisbane line, handing possession over.
15 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos The Broncos run the ball left and the Dragons defenders are all over Nick Kenny, he somehow pops it to Lockyer, who gets a miracle ball out to the left again, Karmichael Hunt is almost unmarked, Big Dell can't get across in time. Hunt scores in what is his last match at Suncorp. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful. Brisbane Broncos 6-0
17 min: PENALTY Broncos - Jeremy Smith drops it on tackle three going into Brisbane's end of the park. Still no real attacking chances for Saints just yet. Two tackles into Brisbane's set the Dragon boys are caught inside the ten.
19 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos A brilliant offload puts Hunt through a gap and the Broncos are in again! A superb start for the home side and the Saints simply aren't in it at the moment! Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful. Brisbane Broncos 12-0
22 min: PENALTY Dragons - inside the ten from the Brisbane side now sees the Saints start a set inside Brisbane's half. Justin Poore is put on his back in the first tackle of the set by some fantastic defence.
23 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Dragons try. Brett Morris looks to have crossed in the corner... checking the touchline. Looks good, the red and whites score on their first trip into maroon territory.
23 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Morris gets it down inside the touchline, he did spectacularly well to avoid all defenders and keep his feet in! What a try!! Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. Brisbane Broncos 12-6
24 min: PENALTY Dragons - Brisbane kick it dead from the kickoff on the full. The momentum swings dramatically now as the Dragons go on the attack for the second time in five minutes.
25 min: Dan Hunt spills it on the third and Brisbane breathe easy.
27 min: Carroll spills it on halfway, Saints now with a good chance to attack.
28 min: Prior drops the ball as the Dragons start to look dangerous. Too many simple errors from them, starting to concern coach Wayne Bennett.
30 min: St George-Illawarra making good metres on this particular set. Brett Morris looking ginger out near the sideline.
32 min: A bomb contest near Brisbane's line is knocked forward by Wendell Sailor. Handover for Brisbane.
34 min: Ball lost on halfway by Saints. Errors killing their chances of drawing level here. Brisbane to attack now. A grubber from Parker is taken dead by Morris. Line drop-out.
35 min: PENALTY Broncos - Dan Hunt a lazy high shot on Tonie Carroll. Brisbane will take the two from about 35m out right in front.
36 min: ATTEMPTED PENALTY GOAL Brisbane Broncos Corey Parker has trouble adding two to Brisbane's score, like Soward's missed penalty attempt, it'll be a line drop-out from 20m out. Brisbane Broncos 12-6
37 min: Lazy offloading 20m out from the Dragons' line sees the Broncos losing possession. Brisbane's defence stepping up a bit now as the visitors try to advance up-field.
38 min: Cooper seems to be having a good run down the right on the last tackle but he flicks it back into the arms of opposition #12 Sam Thaiday.
39 min: Ball's gone forward toward the end of Brisbane's set as they attack, Saints will have one last set of six from inside Brisbane's half.
40 min: An attempted 40/20 from the Dragons is fielded easily by the Broncos' winger Antonio Winterstein. Brisbane's final play is to put the ball out over the touchline and noone is interested in packing the scrum. Oranges!
HALFTIME: A messy, error riddled half of footy - but a very intense one too. Brisbane's defence has been bruising and their attacking strong, they'll be disappointed they're not further ahead. The Dragons absorbed the first 10 minutes of pressure before conceding two relatively soft tries, Karmichael Hunt at his electric best. Unfortunately it may prove to be Hunt's last NRL match, the future AFL star looking at an alleged trip charge just after the 30 minute mark on Dragons' Jamie Soward.
We have both sides on Suncorp for the second half. Brisbane will have the first set.
42 min: A messy but nerve-racking end to the set, St George Illawarra coming close to scoring on two occasions, the Dragons left side attack is already troubling Brisbane's right side defence. Handover on five but we haven't seen the last of the red and white....
44 min: Saints error gives Brisbane ball in front... until Darren Lockyer spills it in front of the line.
45 min: A silly offload on the fifth by Ben Creagh gives the Broncos a set from halfway.
46 min: Sailor spills a bomb on five, it's six-again for Brisbane on the Dragons line.
47 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Broncos try. Thaiday is claiming a try. Looks short to me. Decision pending... REFS CALL. No try, Tackle four.
49 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos Peter Wallace puts a pin-point cross-field kick in. The main jumping group of players misses, Jharal Yow Yeh gets it perfectly... it's a try! Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful. Brisbane Broncos 18-6
51 min: Dean Young leaves the field with what looks like an arm or wrist injury. He suffered it earlier in the game but it's finally gotten the better of him now.
53 min: TRY Brisbane Broncos There's plenty of time remaining but it really looks one-sided now, Lagi Setu playing his part in crushing the premiership dreams of his old club. He latches onto a Lockyer grubber and the Broncos skip out to a huge lead now. Conversion attempt by Corey Parker successful. Brisbane Broncos 24-6
55 min: A big bomb from Soward forces an error from the Broncos. The visitors will attack.
56 min: Yow Yeh is injured after making a tackle on Brett Morris near the corner. His head's gone in awkwardly.
57 min: Soward's fifth tackle lofted kick is fielded easily. The Yow Yeh injury stunted the Dragons' momentum in that set.
UPDATE: Dean Young (STG) suspected broken arm. He's gone for the game and the year.
58 min: Saints attacking again. The need to score here to have any chance...
59 min: Knock-on Brisbane inside their own half. A bit of argy-bargy in the set-up of the scrum, but Saints will have a go. A kick from Hornby, Boyd bearing down on Yow-Yeh, they force it dead. Line drop-out.
60 min: A good fifth tackle cross-field kick from Hornby forces Brisbane into another repeat set. Drop-out.
61 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Dragons try. Jeremy Smith goes close but he hasn't got it down for mine, much like the similar decision with Thaiday for Brisbane earlier on. NO TRY, Dragons to play on.
62 min: The fifth tackle kick is fielded by Folau for Brisbane and they've absorbed the pressure.
64 min: HELD UP - Big Dell has crossed the line but hasn't got it down!
65 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons The Broncos defence is caught out wide on the fifth. Brett Morris is the tryscorer, his second tonight. Jamie Soward from wide out... unsuccessful. Brisbane Broncos 24-10
67 min: A fantastic line break from Nightingale set up by Soward, but Nightingale has no support and has to kick, the Broncos clean up the scraps. At the end of that set Peter Wallace finds touch inside the Dragons' 10m line. A superb long kick.
CROWD: 50,225. Not a sellout but darn close.
70 min: Not sure whether to hit the "Attemped Field Goal" button here, Peter Wallace has motioned to drop kick and it's gone along the ground.
72 min: Lockyer tries to put pressure on Wendell but the Dragons' showman takes it with ease again.
73 min: Chip and chase Soward... re-gathers... throws the wide pass to Dell... ends up in Row 10.
74 min: Peter Wallace looks like he's hurt himself. A huge break now, Soward to Morris, Morris is away! He's dragged down just five out. Cooper...
75 min: VIDEO REFEREE - Possible Dragons try. Cooper might've got it down. Decision pending... NO TRY. Brisbane are through, the Saints are now gone. That's the ball game.
UPDATE: Peter Wallace is gone. Ankle or leg injury, he's in lots of pain.
76 min: Weyman throws an offload, which becomes an intercept - Dave Taylor was the man "in support". Brisbane on the attack again.
77 min: PENALTY Broncos - Beau Scott up-ends Tonie Carroll.
80 min: PENALTY Dragons - Brisbane penalised for offside. Dragons kick it out, and that's their season.
FULLTIME: Brisbane Broncos 24 St George Illawarra Dragons 10 Brisbane book their flights for Melbourne, Saints book the Steelers Leagues Club for Mad Monday. That's all from Suncorp Stadium, a solid but unspectacular victory, but concerns in the halves with Wallace sidelined, torn ligaments.