On paper, losing 24-22 at the team who finished the regular season in second place on a greasy, chilly Friday night isn’t a terrible result. But Broncos head coach Wayne Bennett wasn’t fooled, labelling his side’s defensive effort as “so far off being what we could be.”
Roosters strike late
The Broncos were left battered, bruised and beaten when dynamic Roosters centre Latrell Mitchell, one of the many young indigenous players labelled as the next Greg Inglis, crossed the try line in the dying moments to earn a tight victory. The Broncos will have to play the winner of Manly and Penrith in a sudden death play-off.
Questions over the Broncos’ defence continue to swirl around the side, particularly without fullback Darius Boyd in the custodian role. Both the Sea Eagles and the Panthers could pose them some serious threats through the middle and on the flanks, with speed and quick ball movement.
It’s easy to forget that the Broncos have been playing without defensive lynchpin Andrew McCullough since their round 21 loss to Parramatta Eels, in which the star hooker suffered a serious knee injury. Without McCullough, the Broncos have looked a far less structured and solid defensive unit, with many of their wins since being helped by poor opposition attacks.
That was until they ran into a rampant Eels side in round 25 who cracked the half-century mark in a 52-34 win at Suncorp Stadium, exposing some huge flaws in the Brisbane defence along the way.
Obvious defensive flaws
Those flaws remained evident last night despite being moments from the semi-final after Corey Oates capitalised on a Blake Ferguson error to cross with nine minutes remaining. The ensuing conversion attempt from Jordan Kahu saw the Broncos move 22-18 ahead with just eight minutes left to play.
From there, the rest is history as the Roosters snuck home and banked a huge win.
But Bennett claimed that the close score line was flattering to his side, particularly in defence.
“We’d be lucky to beat the teams [ranked] 15th and 16th with that defensive effort,” said Bennett.
“Everybody was getting excited in the coaching box (after Ferguson’s mistake) but I wasn’t, I didn’t think we could win.
“The Broncos are brave, but we didn’t play well. We are so far off being what we could be. We turned some things around, but we weren’t consistent enough and the errors just killed us.”
The Broncos will be sweating on the return to fitness of fullback Boyd, who would add something to both their defensive and attacking structures, ahead of their must win clash against either the Sea Eagles or Panthers next weekend.
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