This game was in some ways going to define the future for both teams. Whether the Brisbane Broncos could stick with the top four and whether the Cronulla Sharks could get back on track and make a run for the finals.
The Broncos were coming off a good win against the Gold Coast Titans in Round 19 and a loss, not a bad one but a loss nonetheless, against the Melbourne Storm in Round 20. The Sharks were coming off two losses. A thumping by the St George Dragons in Round 19 and a zip score against the Newcastle Knights (18 to nil) in Round 20.
So, the Broncos needed to get their youngsters back on track and the Sharks needed to prove they could win without their inspirational captain Paul Gallen.
Well .....it was slaughter! Six straight tries to the Broncos in the first half to make it 34 to nil until the last minute of the half where the Sharks finally go onto the board.
Hodges was a handful for the Broncos down that right side (the Sharks left) and he scored two of his three in the first half. He has this amazing ability to get through the defence even though he doesn’t seem to be moving that fast. I think his big steps and huge fend makes him look a little a little casual but he accelerates off a fend to make him incredibly lethal. The Broncos fifth try came when Hodges was eventually put down, but he immediately played the ball only for Yow Yeh to demonstrate what a handful he is (and what he is going to be in the years to come) when he fends, bounces and twists to score.
The Sharks only try for the first half came from a lovely little grubber. A little against the flow of the game but they did get a bit of possession and managed to build a bit of pressure late.
The Broncos dominated that first half by 40.25%!! The largest figure I have ever recorded for a half and it showed in the score. They were all over the Sharks. You can see from the Game Tempo line, it was like a series of “waves”. Three actually, each bigger than the last. It was the Broncos riding those waves, sweeping the Sharks ahead of them. Completely spanked their tales! The Sharks were never going to win with that sort of domination against them and the possession for that first half was 65% to the Broncos and 35% to the Sharks.
The second half saw the Sharks come out and dominate for a while with a try from a penalty the result. But then the Broncos arm-wrestled the dominance off them again to post two tries making it 46-12. With that eighth try requiring the video referee to rule that Wallace grounded the ball with his little pinky!!
But yet again the Sharks managed to get through the Broncos defence at the end of the half with a lovely try from the hard running and hard working Jeremy Smith.
In the end, it was a real flogging for a brave Sharks. They managed to keep the Broncos to two tries only in the second half. But it was the absolute shellacking in that first half that took the game from them before 30 minutes was up really. A 40% plus domination in the first half, became a 2% domination in the second half for a 21% domination overall. That was a real reflection of the game. Six tries to one in the first half and two tries each in the second half. The Broncos dominated possession overall 57% to 43% after the Sharks hardly got a look-in during the first half. If you look at the possession bars, it is easy to see.
This game ... the Broncos proved they are a top four side and that first half proved they can go all the way. The Sharks ...they are gone for the year and even Paul Gallen won’t be able to bring them back.