Broncos play ‘worst half of football’ as Cronulla bulldoze their way to win at Lang Park

The Cronulla Sharks scored three tries in a devastating seven-minute spell to overcome a half-time deficit and defeat the Brisbane Broncos 22-12.

Cronulla halfback Braydon Trindall produced one of his finest performances, scoring a try and setting up two others at Lang Park as the visitors rebounded after trailing 12-4 at the break.

The win ended a two-match losing streak for the Sharks and returned them to the top of the ladder.

Meanwhile, it was a second consecutive loss for the Broncos, who also gave up a half-time lead to the Gold Coast Titans at home two weeks earlier.

Brisbane coach Kevin Walters lamented the errors from his team, calling the second half the worst of the season.

“I’m not sure what happened, to be honest … probably our worst half of football,” Walters said.

“Our first set in the second half was poor, with the ball, and it just got worse from there.”

Cronulla’s back five are a key strength and it was winger Sione Katoa who stepped his way through from a scrum with power and deception to narrow the margin to two points straight after the break.

Five minutes later, Trindall threw a dummy and blitzed his way past back-rower Brendan Piakura and the Sharks had the lead.

The Broncos had barely drawn breath after that double blow when a Trindall bomb was dropped by fullback Tristan Sailor and Blayke Brailey scored.

Sharks prop Royce Hunt came off the bench and was enormous with his energy and brute strength, while centre Jesse Ramien put in a stellar display to stake his claim to replace the suspended Joseph-Aukuso Sua’ali’i in the NSW State of Origin side.

Brisbane captain Patrick Carrigan, backing up from Origin with Queensland, backed up a burst by hooker Billy Walters to score the opening try under the sticks after 11 minutes.

But the Sharks returned serve when back-rower Siosifa Talakai started and finished a left-edge attacking movement with brute strength.

The Broncos defended set after set on their own line as the Sharks launched repeated waves of attack but came up empty.

As so often happens, the Broncos then took their first opportunity up the other end.

Hooker Tyson Smoothy scored when half Jock Madden’s grubber kick ricocheted back into Madden’s arms.

The Broncos, with several players backing up from Origin, ran out of gas in the second half and made multiple errors, with their last-play options poor.

Earlier, South Sydney earned back-to-back wins with a 46-12 victory over the Titans, while the New Zealand Warriors defeated the North Queensland Cowboys 42-12 in Townsville.

Re-live all the action in our live blog below.

Key events

Saturday NRL scores

That is all for the blog

We will wrap up the ABC Sport live blog there.

Big wins for Souths and the Warriors was followed by an impressive triumph by the Cronulla Sharks.

We will be back tomorrow as round 14 of the NRL continues.


Brisbane coach Kevin Walters calls the second half the worst of the season

Brisbane coach Kevin Walters is fronting the media.

A clearly disappointed coach says errors cost his side in the second half.

“I’m not sure what happened, to be honest … probably our worst half of football,” he says.

“Our first set in the second half was poor, with the ball, and it just got worse from there.”

Broncos CEO doesn’t think the four match Sua’ali’i suspension is enough

Broncos CEO Dave Donaghy has spoken to ABC Sport following Reece Walsh’s injury in State of Origin.

He doesn’t think the four match Sua’ali’i suspension is enough.

What are your thoughts?

Captain McInnes happy his team showed commitment

Victorious Cronulla Sharks captain Cam McInnes has spoken to ABC Sport after defeating Brisbane 22-12 at Lang Park.

The Sharks were coming off consecutive losses where they had gave up a total of 76 points.

But tonight, the Sharks were back at their destructive best.

They dominated the Broncos in contact, which brought delight to McInnes.

“Footy is a simple game, but if you want to play it the right way, it’s a hard game,” he tells ABC Sport.

Brisbane let themselves down with a slow start to the second half

Brisbane halfback Jock Madden has joined ABC Sport following his side’s 22-12 defeat to Cronulla.

Brisbane had a 12-4 lead at half-time, but conceded three tries in the opening 10 minutes of the second half.

“We talked about [how] we wanted to come out firing in the second half. We did the opposite,” Madden says.

“It wasn’t good enough at the start of the second half and we couldn’t come back from that.”

FULL-TIME: Cronulla Sharks 22 def Brisbane Broncos 12

What an outstanding second half from the Cronulla Sharks.

A 10-minute blitz where they scored three tries — followed by punishing defence — has given the Shire boys a confidence-boosting win.

74′ Trindall and Kennedy deny Brisbane

The Broncos came so close to getting back into this game.

A drop ball was collected by Deine Mariner who looks to run 85 metres.

Mariner is fast, but the last line of defence knocks him into touch.

It was a Braydon Trindall who made an ankle tap, then Will Kennedy completed the tackle into touch.

70′ Katoni Staggs limps off the field

More issues for the Broncos.

Centre Katoni Staggs has just limped off the field.

His right knee is his problem.

He has gone up the tunnel.

65′ Missed penalty goal: Sharks miss chance to extend lead to 12 points

The Sharks have missed a penalty goal after Brisbane were pinned for being offside.

The Sharks were attacking Brisbane’s line again after another knock-on.

This time it was Deine Mariner who spilled a bouncing ball, while under no pressure.

Cronulla will get another chance as Brisbane will have a 20 metre drop out.

But Cronulla drop the ball near the Brisbane line.

The Broncos survive with the deficit still 10 points.

61′ Jordan Riki passes HIA and returns

Jordan Riki, with a cut under his eye, has passed his HIA and is back for the Broncos.

50′ TRY: Another Broncos error, another Sharks try

Brisbane has imploded to start the second half.

The Sharks, on the set after scoring, marched up field and put up a kick to Tristan Sailor.

Sailor drops it cold.

It lands in the lap of Siosifa Talakai and gives it to Blayke Brailey who scores.

48 TRY: Trindall scores and Cronulla take the lead

Brisbane have made two errors in their own end, and have conceded two tries from it.

This time it was Katoni Staggs who dropped the ball.

Cronulla are attacking Brisbane’s line and halfback Braydon Trindall steps off his right foot, beats Brendan Piakura, and scores.

46′ Jordan Riki off after an accidental boot to the face

Brisbane forward Jordan Riki has gone up the tunnel with a towel over his right eye.

Riki, while making a tackle, copped a stray boot which appears to have cut him.

43′ TRY: Sione Katoa scores for the Sharks

Sione Katoa has scored early in the second half.

Off a scrum 10 metres from the Broncos’ line — following a Tristan Sailor knock-on — Katoa beats Selwyn Cobbo and crashes over the line.

That is Katoa’s ninth try of the season.

The second half begins at Lang Park

Cronulla kick-off with a big 40 minutes coming up.

The Sharks this time will run to the left of your screen.

Brisbane and Cronulla on a knife’s edge

Tight first half, but I think the score reflects the state of play…

– Mike

Thanks for joining me on the live blog Mike.

This is shaping up to be a cracking game.

HT: Brisbane Broncos 12 leading Cronulla Sharks 4

Half-time at Lang Park and we have a cracker.

The Broncos’ defence has been tested but the home side have held firm.

Brisbane’s eight-point lead has been built on goal line defence and taking their opportunities.

The Sharks will believe they can score points tonight, while Brisbane will be buoyed with confidence.

33′ TRY: Brisbane punish the Sharks with a try

Tyson Smoothy is over for the Broncos — against the run of play.

Cronulla had the ball for 26 of 27 plays, and it was all on the Brisbane line.

But the Broncos survived, got a relieving penalty, and then scored as soon as they tested the Sharks’ line.

It was a grubber kick on the last play which hit a Shark, and the ball pops up perfectly for Jock Madden, who gives it to Smoothy for the try.

32′ Brisbane’s goal line defence survives again

Great work from Brisbane to repel the Sharks.

The away side threw everything at the Broncos.

Brisbane gets the ball, and a penalty.

Pressure relieved for now.

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Viva Las V’landys: Vegas party has started for the NRL but it is hard to tell if there’s an American flavour … yet

From Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas

If Peter V’landys wanted a party, that’s certainly what he got in arguably the party capital of the world.

Ever since the gates opened around two hours before kick-off there was no shortage of sounds, music, light shows, fun food and drink as the crowd slowly built before kick-off.

There was a DJ at one end of the ground rocking out the classics from ACDC to even Elvis Presley throughout the evening.

The indoor stadium, home of the NFL’s Raiders, not only provided the stage for one of Australia’s biggest sporting codes to showcase itself, but it was also a refuge from the atrocious wind that would have had many fans at a regular season game back home in Australia doubting whether they would even leave the couch.

The wind was reminiscent of a 1990s game in Wollongong, where balls were travelling backwards, which would have almost eliminated the effect of the high ball from Daly Cherry-Evans or Adam Reynolds.

Gusts reached a peak of nearly 100km/h across parts of the city, and any ball above shoulder height would easily have ended up crossing the state border en route to New York.

The American National Anthem performed before the NRL Doubleheader in Las Vegas – March 3, 2024.

Inside it was all about one thing – and it was clear that it was a rugby league event. Jerseys from right across the NRL made up most bays in the stadium; even fans not in the contest.

Parramatta fans were shaking hands with Bulldogs enemies, and Rabbitohs supporters were having a beer and a yarn with Manly-clad spectators – supposedly bitter enemies in the opening game of the double-header.

There was even a Wests Tigers supporter spotted on his feet clapping every line break and big hit, even though he had no personal interest in the score, except for his overall love of the game. It was like an Origin, but instead of having two colours, it was a rugby league kaleidoscope.

For the nostalgic fans, North Sydney was represented, along with one jersey from the old City Origin days. Many even made the trip over from England with Super League logos among the mix.

Foundation club South Sydney also had the honour of being the first out on US soil, with the famous Glory, Glory to South Sydney tune introducing the players to the crowd.

South Sydney and Manly supporters watching the Doubleheader in Las Vegas – March 3, 2024.

Then you had the vocal atmosphere of an NRL match – the crowd yelling their opposition at the ref “get him onside”, “what was that for” – and unfortunately for Sea Eagles fans, they received the loudest boos of the opening game. So, another country, but league fans didn’t seem more welcoming. However, Manly had the last laugh on the scoreboard.

It wasn’t long before the NRL had something to show the Americans; the opening set had plenty of big hits, fast gameplay, and later in the half, Jason Saab broke the game open with two line-breaks that had everyone on their feet.

There were plenty of light shows and entertainment that would compare to a blockbuster NBA or NFL game, giving the Aussies a taste of the American sporting stage (it wouldn’t be possible to get this atmosphere at Brookvale or Kogarah) – even if the fog from the fireworks lingered into the game.

One disappointment was the national anthems, which were performed half an hour before the teams ran out onto the field, rather than having the teams lined up, as they would in a finals game or State of Origin – and before many fans found their seats.

Allegiant Stadium NRL 4

Fans preparing to watch the NRL Doubleheader in Las Vegas – March 3, 2024.

However, the big question that was not clearly evident from the ground was whether this festive show of rugby league actually penetrated the American audience.

I mean, there was definitely some interest, a few stadium ushers who did get a chance to observe some of the action in between showing spectators to their seats asked what the loud horn signalling a ruck infringement was, why passes couldn’t be thrown forward, and how long the halves went for (but who knows if it’s just so he knew when he could sit down again).

A few more explainers on the big screen would have been nice, especially for those inside the stadium watching what was a brand-new game to them.

If speed was a point of difference in selling the sport to a new market, it was a case of blink and you miss it as the games changed over almost seamlessly and the Broncos and Roosters took to the field.

Manly captain, DCE himself was distracted at the press conference trying to keep up with the second game, and the elevator operator at the stadium was left questioning if it was indeed a second game – or a continuation of the first.

At 8.30 pm local time, and after 80 minutes of one game, it seemed no one at the stadium had lost any energy – or at least nonetheless lost their voices. Wherever you were sitting in the stadium, you were drawn in by the crowd atmosphere alone.

Even if it was sloppy at times, thanks to the off-season rust, all the teams competing in the doubleheader wanted to entertain.

On a field designed for the NFL, there were a few fitting cross-code moments as the Broncos thought they were playing the American game with shoves across the sideline – fans didn’t need to be a rugby league technician to get excited or voice frustration at the calls.

Nor when James Tedesco fearlessly came flying through after the short drop-out and collided heavily with Ezra Mam, the gasps from the crowd summed up how tough you have to be to play this sport. What would a game be without players trying to ‘bring back the biff’?

Even if many in the crowd will be kicking on in Las Vegas on a Saturday night, they had the perfect warm-up with the DJ’s playlist featuring the likes of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer, Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Daryl Braithwaite’s Horses, showing no one had tired by well after halftime in the second game.

But it was only the entree as Brisbane kicked into gear and threatened a comeback with exciting passages of play in the second half – you could sense that a close game is what everyone wanted to see!

This was the atmosphere the NRL dreamed of, if nothing else, there was definitely a bang for your buck coming to ‘the footy’ in Las Vegas.

There’s also definitely a bit of curiosity among a small number of Americans here in Las Vegas about what the game is and how it works – but most of the noise, most of the show, most of the celebration up until this point has been Aussie-driven.

That’s how anything has to start, I guess, but ensuring that more locals come to the party in future years is going to be key to the growth of the NRL in this country.

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ANALYSIS: ‘Silly’ Latrell facing ban for elbow as Souths unravel – but demand explanation as Knights score on eighth tackle

Newcastle have made their biggest statement yet ahead of the Finals, beating South Sydney 29-10 to record their seventh consecutive victory, their best run in 20 years.

Latrell Mitchell was binned for an alleged elbow on Tyson Frizell with a minute to go to cap a terrible afternoon for the Bunnies. He will now face the judiciary and, with Souths likely to need a derby win against the Roosters to make the Finals, he is a major doubt.

Jason Demeriou described the incident as ‘silly’ and said that Mitchell deserved what he got from the officials.

“He got his medicine, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens,’ said the coach. “There’s no point talking about it. We’ll wait and see what the verdict is and we’ll go from there. (Potential replacement) Blake Taaffe is doing a great job, he’s played some good footy for us this year. We’ll see what happens.”

Further controversy might be brewing, too, as Newcastle scored a crucial try through Jacob Saifiti on the eighth tackle of a seven tackle set, prompting the Bunnies to send a

“Make no mistake, the best team on the day won,” CEO Blake Solly told the Sydney Morning Herald. “The Knights deserved the two points, they were better and I don’t think this altered the result. I would hate to do anything that takes credit away from the Knights and they way they performed.

“Having said that, we are going into the most important part of the season, and it’s imperative the game gets these calls right.”

The win takes Newcastle to 12 for the year plus an extra point for a draw, leaving the Knights needing one win from their final two – Sharks at home, Dragons away – to make the eight.

At this rate, they might yet secure a home final, and if the atmosphere at a sold out McDonald Jones Stadium this afternoon is anything to by, it will be a daunting task for any team that has to make the journey.

Souths, on the other hand, have now gone 4-8 since topping the ladder in May and will need to beat the Roosters on the last weekend to secure their spot. They are fading fast.

Newcastle were far too good for the Bunnies today, with only Kalyn Ponga’s errant goalkicking keeping the score respectable. 

The fullback more than made up for his struggles with the boot by laying on three tries for Greg Marzhew before half time and making three line breaks of his own. 

Adam O’Brien has his side playing superb attacking footy, with threat on both sides and Ponga in his best form in years. Even without halfback Jackson Hastings today, they didn’t miss a beat. His replacement, Adam Clune, even found him to slot a derisory field goal at the end.

“I’m really happy for the playing group,” said the Knights boss

“They’ve worked hard all year, it’s not just for the last seven weeks when the results have fallen that way. They’ve worked hard since November.”

Demetriou, on the other hand, has a huge job to even make the post-season – especially if, as expected, he has to do it without Latrell.

“We’re just a team playing without much confidence at the moment,” he said.

“You’ve got to play tough, you’ve got to wait for the opportunity to come. You’ve got to be prepared to take your medicine. They put pressure on us with their defence and they made our execution hard.”

Knightmare afternoon for South Sydney

Newcastle might have been a little disappointed by their first half: they were 12-0 to the good and had played pretty much as well as they can, with the left edge electric and the defence exceptional, especially on goalline.

Marzhew had run in a hat trick, all laid on by Ponga, but the fullback had erred with the boot and missed all three conversions. 

It was arguable that Demetriou would have been the happier coach.

His side couldn’t take a trick in the first half. More than once, they found themselves on the wrong side of a lead runner and were forced to give up the ball. They got to decent positions, but the passes didn’t stick. Even when they forced repeat sets, the Knights’ killer short dropout nicked it back.

This was as good as the Bunnies had gone in a long while, and they had nothing to show for it.

South Sydney have generally fallen over when they haven’t been able to defend their errors, and that was very much their undoing here. 

For a side that are known as possessing one of the best left edges in the game, they struggled massively with Newcastle’s equivalent, particularly the dexterity of Ponga. 

It was as if the Bunnies had never seen their opponents before. Their two key patterns are a deep one to the right, with Dom Young aimed at the corner, and a more shallow move to the left that allows Ponga to make the key decision.

Today we got the run in both directions, with Campbell Graham – usually one of the best defensive centres around – unable to cope with his movement, plus the pass that Bradman Best was able to bat on.

It was ironic that Souths seemed so unable to stop the Knights’ big idea, as Newcastle had gone all their homework. 

When the Rabbitohs looked to put on their left edge attack, the defence often slightly dropped, allowing for a bend-not-break approach. Brisbane did this too, and it went a long way to negating Latrell Mitchell by taking away the pass to Alex Johnston.

Dane Gagai, who has often been exposed in defence (and particularly by Souths) was able to follow this to perfection, with the huge wingspan and pace of Young cutting off the passing lane outside of him.

Typically, Souths have benefited from the willingness of sides to bite in, with their skill good enough to get around, but against defences that hold position, they are making metres, but not breaks.

Without as much strike from deep, Souths’ poor kicking became exposed.

Lachlan Ilias sent one straight off the field – he’s good for one of those a game at the moment – and beyond that, struggled to offer anything more than innocuous bombs. It remains the biggest weakness in his game.

As they chased the game, a familiar spiral set in for Souths. They always play high risk footy, but as the errors increased, so did the frustration, which eventually spilled over into Latrell’s moment of madness. 

He was lucky not to be sent off – referee Grant Atkins discussed it with the Bunker – and will now surely miss his team’s biggest game of the year. 

Souths are used to playing without him through injury, but this one was entirely self-inflicted.

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ANALYSIS: Souths send message with Panthers win – now let’s play it all over again in October

It was third time lucky. Three times with the game on the line, Souths sent their play the ball to the right tramline, three times they hit left with men in motion and on the last of them, they made it.

Twice it had been Nathan Cleary who made the spectacular, Sattleresque – son not father – tackle, but he was left despairing in his dive at Isaiah Tass. 20-18 was the final score.

Make no mistake: these are the best two teams in the NRL. If we don’t see this again in the first weekend of October, one of the other 15 will have put on a mammoth effort.

It was a game of excellent quality, with both sides throwing all they had in attack and being met by everything the other had in defence.

Stephen Crichton, who scored three tries and all the Panthers’ points, did not deserve to be on the losing side. Neither did Cleary, who was battered and bruised but came up with what looked like the winning play twice.

Until Latrell Mitchell intervened, at least. And Cam Murray, Lachlan Ilias, Cody Walker and Alex Johnston, who proved that the famous Souths left edge can do it against the very best, with the game on the line, when it matters most.

Mitchell was worth two tries in a typically heroic showing. It’ll be lost in the rundown from the hour of footy that followed, but his offload that created Souths’ first try was as good a piece of individual daring as you’ll see. Manly had criticised. Not anymore.

Cast your mind back three weeks and Trell Mit was coming in for plenty of fire. Since then, he’s scored six in three, including a hat trick against the Dogs in his 150th and a domineering display tonight.

It’s all well and good having a system that you trust, but it helps having a character who can impose himself on the best team in the league like this.

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It’s a game in which both sides go home happy. Ivan Cleary will be miffed that, for the fourth time this year, his side lost a close one, but proud that they never, ever go away.

Jason Demetriou would have been proud of the performance regardless of the result, but Souths are sick to death of being valiant losers against Penrith. Now, they’re not.

Souths make a statement

Souths came into this game with a serious plan. They go about the business of grinding differently: where Penrith generate their metres from their backline and save the forwards for tackling, Souths tend to favour their big men in the middle.

Dutifully, they picked a three and a half forwards on the bench – Jed Cartwright has been known to moonlight at centre – and got about winning the middle.

Prior to their opener, it wasn’t necessarily working, with the Panthers gradually winning an extended, near-20 minute long grind, but Souths were constantly trying to throw things at the defence to see what worked. 

There were early kicks from both Walker and Ilias that disrupted the rhythm. There was a clear desire to get to their points, even from deep, and put plays on. They were never playing merely to complete sets, but complete they did.

Eventually it paid off. Latrell’s pass that won the field position was the kind that no other player even tries, and likely, that no other team empowers their player to try. Once Souths got to where they wanted to be, they struck immediately through Damien Cook.

It’s not good enough to just try and outgrind Penrith. They’re too good at it and will beat you. Even on their worst day, as Newcastle found out last week.

You absolutely cannot switch off against Penrith. Souths were well on top, ending the first half with Campbell Graham held a yard from the Panthers line. It’s exactly where they would want to be with 60 seconds to play.

Yet this team doesn’t stop. Souths’ defence got them to 39 minutes in front, but for the third time in a row, they went to the sheds level thanks to a Panthers try just before the break. 

By the end, though, it was the Bunnies on top. Penrith kept on going to the end because they always do, but the confidence in Souths to keep trying to play their football – not panicking, but playing the way they always do – was the difference.

With six minutes on the clock, Murray turned down an easy two points and chose to run it. They didn’t score. The mentality of doing that, when all logic would suggest edging ahead, was still there at the end. Souths could have tried to set up a two point field goal shot. Instead, they played to their points, put on their move and got a try.

Souths’ defence the difference

The question that the Bunnies have faced in their lengthy losing streak against the Panthers has always been about their defence. Nobody doubts that the Bunnies can look good in attack, but Penrith are the league’s standard in defence and have been able to stay in it long enough to win in the end.

Tonight, that was different. Souths endured a now-traditional wobble either side of the break and went 13 minutes completely inside their own half, with the Panthers enjoying six sets’ worth of good ball. They came away with nothing.

The Panthers, as mentioned, don’t stop. They conceded a try of their own, but never deviated from their plan and just built and built pressure. South Sydney, still, kept them at bay, but eventually gave themselves too much to do and conceded.

Then, they conceded again through a slightly fortunate bounce that gave Crichton his hat trick. Penrith are relentless and played relentlessly.

On another day, however, the Bunnies would have crumbled. Plenty enough pressure came and there was more than enough reason for it all to go wrong.

It’s times like this that clubs build systems for. Penrith know theirs and won’t deviate because of this or anything. That’s why they’ll be there at the end. Everyone knew Souths had an attack, but tonight showed that they have a defence too.

Tito v Stretch

Normally, the most hyped battle will be two intimidating props bashing going mano-a-mano or two masterful halfbacks leading their sides around.

Tonight, however, the best two players on the field went straight up against each other with Campbell Graham and Sunia Turuva.

It was guaranteed that they would both get plenty of traffic, too. Turuva has fielded almost every kick that Panthers have received all season, partly because he’s new and everyone wants to test him out but also because nobody wants the ball to land on Brian To’o or Dylan Edwards. They might start to think again: 150m with eight tackle breaks will do that.

Graham doesn’t get the kicks, but it’s guaranteed that Taane Milne does given his history of dropping bombs, particularly those kicked by Nathan Cleary.

The centre is the lynchpin of Souths’ backline carries and invariably takes the tough carry after Milne has had the ball dropped on him a great height.

There were plenty of tough, tough runs to be taken and there can be few outside backs in the NRL who so consistently find their front and, usually, carry a few with them. He made 125m with the ball, and almost half of them were post-contact. That tells you plenty about the sort of runs Graham was taking.

It didn’t end well for Turuva, however. He was limping badly at the end after turning badly on an ankle.

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