Ben Hunt of the Broncos kicks the ball past Isaac Liu of the Roosters.
Ben Hunt of the Broncos kicks the ball past Isaac Liu of the Roosters. GLENN HUNT

Milford sizzles as Bennett masterminds fine Broncos win

PLAYING his 100th NRL game, Anthony Milford was always going to be the man under the microscope and he defied a recent form slump to inspire a scintillating performance from the Broncos, tearing the Roosters apart to win 32-8.

But if Milford was the main man in attack, the Broncos' best performance of the season was defined just as much in defence by hooker Andrew McCullough's desperate ankle tap - one of the best you'll ever see - to deny Michael Gordon a try that could have easily swung the match.

Leading 20-8 in the 57th minute, the Broncos looked certain to be hit with a sucker punch when Trent Robinson unleashed his x-factor man off the bench and Connor Watson delivered instantly with a line break that had try written all over it.

On the next play Gordon pinned his ears back with no one between him and the try line, only to be shocked when his legs crumpled from under him courtesy of McCullough's incredible full-stretch defensive effort.

By the time Gordon got up to look for a support runner the Broncos' defence had recovered and Tevita Pangai Jnr put himself in the right place to take the intercept and quickly turn defence into attack.

For a Roosters side that was living off scraps and scrambling from the earliest minutes of the game, this was the moment that took the air from their lungs. There was only going to be one winner from then on.

MILFORD'S HUGE PERFORMANCE

With protracted contract talks and poor form hanging over Milford in the lead up to his 100th game, it was all set up to be a boom or bust performance with the Broncos desperate for a win after starting the season with just two wins from five.

Speaking on Fox League in the pre-game Mal Meninga encouraged Miford to "get on the ball" and stay in the game for the full 80 minutes and right from the kick off it was clear the young star's focus was where it needed to be.

Not only was he causing the Roosters' huge headaches in attack on the left edge - twice running to the line and throwing short balls that almost broke the defensive line early, before putting Sam Thaiday over for a go-ahead try - in the 34th minute Milford rushed out of the line to monster Mitchell Pearce with a massive hit on the star playmaker.

It was a statement tackle that lifted his teammates and they responded with a high-tempo game style that suited the livewire No.6.

While the Broncos had struggled in attack for much of the opening five rounds, it was a different side that took the park against the Roosters, with the ball constantly going wide early and creating headaches for rush up defenders like Latrell Mitchell.

 

David Mead (left) of the Broncos celebrates with teammates after scoring a try.
David Mead (left) of the Broncos celebrates with teammates after scoring a try. GLENN HUNT

Matched up against an in-form Blake Ferguson, Tautau Moga was having his most destructive game of the season.

Although a soft effort in defence let Ferguson in for an early try, Moga had the last laugh, standing his opposite up on a couple of occasions and finishing the game with a whopping 230 running metres.

Moga's huge game was a by-product of the constant quick play the balls and expansive shifts of the ball to the edges in a Broncos performance that fired a warning shot across the competition.

Ultimately, their attack thrives when Milford and Ben Hunt are at their best and while the halfback was forced off due to a hamstring injury in the 49th minute, Milford proved he could not only be the spark plug, he could also assume game management duties as he steered the ship home in the closing half an hour.

THE DOWNSIDE TO VICTORY

The Broncos may have put on an exhibition but their celebrations will no doubt be soured by the news they'll be without their No.7 for the next three weeks.

Wayne Bennett confirmed in the post-game press conference that Hunt would be sidelined by the hamstring injury that ended his night early, and with Benji Marshall also out of action due to a fractured wrist, the Broncos will likely have to fall back on livewire utility Kodi Nikorima in the halves.

Not only that, Korbin Sims also spent the last quarter of the game with his ankle strapped and iced, potentially forcing Bennett to find a new starter to partner Adam Blair in the front-row.

CHOOKS' POTENTIAL KRYPTONITE

At half-time Trent Robinson told his players "this wasn't the game we planned for but we need to adapt to it and enjoy it".

Clearly the premiership coach was as surprised by the Broncos' slick ball movement as anyone, with the Roosters expecting a roll up your sleeves and win the middle kind of battle rather than a backline shootout.

Bennett hasn't won seven premierships out of luck and the game plan worked a treat as the Chooks' edges were penetrated time and time again, setting up half breaks and quick play the balls as Brisbane rolled forward.

And despite Robinson's urgings for the Roosters to enjoy it and fight fire with fire, they were never able to plug the leaks and were ultimately run ragged.

News Corp Australia

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