The Brisbane Broncos stepped on Suncorp Stadium without the majority of their key players on Thursday night, a decision which affected the outcome of the game significantly. The Broncos were handed a 32-22 defeat by Melbourne in a fiercely fought game that could have cost them their first minor premiership since 2000. 11 crucial players from each team were absent from the match, opening a golden opportunity for the Broncos. Now, the Panthers are one win away from securing the top spot if they successfully beat North Queensland on Saturday night.
The Broncos, despite taking a narrow 22-20 lead after Melbourne’s winger Reimis Smith was sent off for ten minutes, failed to capitalise on their numbers advantage. Smith, on his return, reinstated his team’s lead with a try off a worn-out Broncos defence.
Thursday night’s game was a memorable one for Melbourne debutant Sualauvi Fa’alogo. Fa’alogo marked his first game with two impressive tries. One of these tries is a contender for ‘try of the year’ where he intercepted a pass in the middle of the field to score. The new blood on the team had one final say with seven minutes left, scoring the decisive try that sealed the victory for Melbourne.
Fa’alogo’s entrance into the game came during the first half’s dying minutes. His introduction led to a pulsating try that put Melbourne ahead for the first time in the game. This was after the Broncos had asserted their dominance early in the game with captain Tom Flegler and winger Jordan Pereira scoring the first two tries.
Tristan Sailor, filling in some big shoes left by Reece Walsh, signalled to his coach, Kevin Walters, that he’s ready for bigger opportunities in the NRL. With club legend Wendell Sailor cheering him on from the stands, the younger Sailor gave an impressive performance. He finished with two try assists, three line-break assists, one line break, two kick-forced dropouts, eight beat defenders, and ran for 180 metres.
In other news, after being side-lined for over a year due to injury, Ryan Papenhuyzen had an impressive second game back. The fullback played the full 80 minutes and, in doing so, reminded everyone of what he is capable of. Papenhuyzen finished the game with two try involvements, four conversions, six tackle breaks, and made 135 metres. Melbourne has done pretty well to secure a top-four spot in his absence. Now that he is back and running, Papenhuyzen could be among the top threats during the upcoming finals, more so once the likes of Cameron Munster, Harry Grant, and Jahrome Hughes return.