Anthony Milford put on a masterclass for the Brisbane Broncos in his 150th NRL game to inspire a 29-6 win over an injury-ravaged Sharks who lost star playmaker Shaun Johnson to a hamstring injury.
Minutes before kick-off the Sharks withdrew winger Josh Dugan with a hamstring twinge, a setback that summed up the unfortunate night they had at Suncorp Stadium against a rampant Brisbane.
The Broncos fielded their full-strength pack for the first time this season and middle forwards Matt Lodge, Tevita Pangai jnr, Payne Haas, Joe Ofahengaue and Thomas Flegler all clocked up more than 120 metres and hunted as a genuine pack in attack and defence.
Milford’s kicking created constant problems for the Sharks with his bombs and grubber kicks all pinpoint accurate. His passing game was also on song with the Brisbane five-eighth registering two try assists and two line break assists.
Match: Broncos v Sharks
Round 7 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
- LIVE PASS
The 24-year-old playmaker completed a near perfect first half with a 35-metre field goal to give Brisbane a 21-0 lead. Criticised in certain quarters for not calling the shots with enough assertiveness, Milford answered his critics by doing exactly that in the first half in particular.
Two errors by the Sharks inexperienced backs cost them dearly early in the match. A wonky pass by fullback William Kennedy was ruled to have been knocked on by debutant winger Ronaldo Mulitalo, who was a late call-up for Dugan.
Minutes later Corey Oates opened the scoring for the Broncos from a well-worked set play when he came from the left wing to hit a perfectly timed Milford pass and score on the right side.
Mulitalo then dropped a Milford bomb and in the ensuing play Alex Glenn dived over from close range.
The Broncos had dominated possession to the tune of 64 per cent by the 17th minute when Jamayne Isaako landed a penalty goal for a 14-0 lead.
Pangai jnr went up the tunnel with an eye injury and he was followed by Johnson, who left the field after clutching at a hamstring in the 21st minute. Pangai returned before half-time but Johnson’s night was over and he was sorely missed.
The Sharks continued to bumble and fumble their way through the first half. Kennedy knocked on and gave Brisbane field position inside the quarter and a slick short ball from Milford found a charging Ofahengaue to make it 20-0.
Brisbane continued to turn the screws in the second stanza with centre James Roberts brushing Josh Morris aside to score after a Kodi Nikorima tap-on.
The Sharks hung tough and were rewarded with a try to hooker Jayden Brailey after a neat kick from Chad Townsend hit the goal post pads.
Brisbane clearly targeted the rookies in the Sharks line-up and did so with success, but they will need to have more polish to beat South Sydney at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night.