Brisbane have finally jump-started their premiership aspirations – leaving St George Illawarra’s on life support – after claiming a sorely needed 12-8 NRL win in Wollongong.
The Broncos strolled to a 12-2 lead on Thursday night before Dragons pivot Gareth Widdop took a Benji Marshall bomb in the 76th minute, however it wasn’t enough to stop the home side falling to a fifth consecutive defeat.
In front of a crowd of just 5662 in the wet, Broncos stars Sam Thaiday and Matt Gillett returned from suspension and injury respectively to help the side get back on the winner’s list.
More importantly, Brisbane move to within two points of a crucial second chance in the finals.
Thaiday scored the only try of the opening hour, while Gillett, in his first game since picking up a shoulder injury in State of Origin III, tallied a quality 81 metres and 43 tackles in a powerhouse outing.
The Dragons remain just two points outside the top eight but face an uphill battle to make the finals.
Marshall’s hopes of earning a new contract also nosedived along with the Dragons’ season after the veteran committed five of his side’s nine errors in a disappointing performance.
The 31-year-old twice fumbled balls in attacking opportunities, bombed one kick out on the full and also crucially was caught on the last tackle with the Dragons in search of the game-winner late in the match.
In torrid conditions in a dull first half, both sides opened conservatively, tucking the ball under their arms and completing at a rate of more than 90 per cent in the dreadful conditions.
After trading penalty goals, Thaiday’s 23rd-minute chasedown of an Anthony Milford grubber gave the visitors an 8-2 lead by halftime.
Dragons winger Kurt Mann almost scored a long-range try but fumbled a pick-up with the tryline begging in the 52nd minute, before opposite flyer Lachlan Maranta went over eight minutes later.