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A four-try haul to centre Mele Hufanga led three-time NRLW premiers Brisbane to a 40-12 win over the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday afternoon.

After losses to the Roosters and Titans in the opening two rounds, the Broncos clicked into gear with Hufanga cashing in on the great work of playmakers Ali Brigginshaw and Gayle Broughton inside her.

The 28-year-old World Cup star equalled the NRLW record for most tries in a match, set by Taleena Simon for the Roosters in 2018, and also came up with 15 tackle breaks as she toyed with the Cowboys defence.

Broncos winger Toni Hunt, who played outside Hufanga, scored a try in her first NRLW game since overcoming cancer. 

The Broncos came out of the blocks firing after a penalty in the first tackle saw them march down field to cross in the second minute through Tazmin Gray off a Ali Brigginshaw kick. The skipper converted for a 6-0 lead.

Tazmin Gray 1st minute

A show-and-go from Hufanga saw the Broncos extend their lead in the 6th minute. Brigginshaw was unable to convert out-wide leaving the score 10-0. 

With all the early momentum, Hunt crossed for her first NRLW try through a smooth cut-out pass from fullback Hayley Maddick, the score remained at 14-0 when Brigginshaw was unable to convert.

The Cowboys hit back when Kirra Dibb found PNG international Shellie Long through a slick double-pump off the scrum-play. Dibb converted the extras to make the score to 14-6 after 20 minutes.

Building as the match continued, the Cowboys were disallowed in the 25th minute after Dibb grubber-kicked for herself underneath the posts, however, failed to cleanly ground the ball.

Mele Hufanga try 27th minute

The momentum shifted once again when Boughton skipped across field to find Hufanga to cross for her second try, taking the score out to 18-6. 

An error to Broncos winger Hunt allowed the Cowboys one last attacking set before half-time. Moments later Cook Island international April Ngatunpuna crashed over beside the posts to reduce the half-time deficit to 18-12. 

The Broncos came out of the blocks fast and marched down field for Hufanga to cross for her third out wide in the 37th minute. Brigginshaw converted the try to take the lead to 24-12.

The Broncos left edge was at it again when Broughton slipped a pass inside to Hufanga for the Kiwi Ferns star to score her fourth try.

April Ngatunpuna try 34th minute

With the Broncos in complete control, winger Lauren Dam scored in the corner following a slick backline play on the right edge. Brigginshaw converted from the touchline to take the score to 34-12. 

The Cowboys looked to have dragged one back in the 64th minute when Emma Manzelmann plunged over but replays showed she had lost control while attempting to ground the ball.

With the two competition points in the bank, Brigginshaw produced a trademark try from 10 metres to take the Broncos to 40 points.

Match Snapshot

  • Broncos skipper Ali Brigginshaw was placed on report in the fifth minute for a dangerous tackle.
  • Cowboys forward Tiana Raftstrand-Smith left the field in the ninth minute for a HIA which she failed.
  • Broncos prop Annetta Nu'uausala was sent for a HIA in the 26th minute after a head clash which she passed.

Lauren Dam try 56th minute

  • Mele Hufanga is just the second player in NRLW history to score four tries in a game, the first being Taleena Simon in 2018 for the Roosters. Hufanga finished with 166 run metres, five line breaks and 15 tackle breaks to go with her four tries.
  • Broncos hooker Destiny Brill was sent for a HIA with 16 minutes to play and didn't return.
  • Five of the Broncos' forwards ran for more than 100 metres – Brianna Clark, Tazmin Gray, Romy Teitzel, Mariah Denmam and Chelsea Lenarduzzi. 

Mele Hufanga try 6th minute

Play of the Game 

With the momentum shifting both ways throughout the match, Mele Hufanga crossed for her fourth try in the 40th minute when Broughton laid on a perfectly timed pass for her to cross beside the posts, spearheading all the momentum for the Broncos to seal the victory.  

Mele Hufanga try 40th minute

What they Said

"It's not good enough at this level. You're playing your inaugural home game, in an inaugural double-header, and a good crowd turns up to watch you play and you dish that up, so it's not good enough. But credit to the Broncos, they came here, rolled their sleeves up and prepared to play and they got the win. We've identified our starts to games aren't good enough and again today, it put us on the back foot. Obviously in a game like that, there will be some shining lights out of it and I thought Makenzie Weale and Francis Goldthorp really did play well," - Cowboys coach Ben Jeffries.

Cowboys: Round 3

"We completed quite well - about 90 per cent - so I give the team a massive wrap, and an area we wanted to improve on was our missed tackles. We were making our one-on-one tackles a lot better but also creating chances where we can give our outside backs some opportunities. Mele obviously reaped the rewards for hard work and effort by our forwards but also identifying by our halves that there were some opportunities on the edges as well. Her performance was outstanding, scoring four tries and that was just off the back of really hard work in terms of her pre-season and just having belief that what she is doing is working," - Broncos coach Scott Prince.

Broncos: Round 3

What's Next

The Cowboys and Broncos are both part of a Round 4 double-header at Totally Workwear Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.

North Queensland face Wests Tigers while the Broncos are up against the Eels.

Broncos winger Ash Werner is available after completing her two match suspension for biting, but hooker Destiny Brill is likely to be out after suffering a head knock late in the match.

Cowboys prop Tiana Raftstrand-Smith is also in doubt for next weekend after failing a HIA.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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