A first all-Queensland NRL grand final is becoming a real prospect after Brisbane produced one of the greatest defensive performances in recent memory to stay on top of the ladder.
A day after the second-placed North Queensland extended their winning streak to 11 with victory over the Raiders in Canberra, the Broncos simply refused to yield to wave after wave of Melbourne Storm attack at AAMI Park.
If defence wins titles, Brisbane’s effort in their 14-12 win over Melbourne suggested they will be there on grand final day.
The Broncos were forced to make a whopping 11 line drop-outs and come up 385 tackles with four players topping 40 as Melbourne completed a remarkable 36 of 40 sets.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said it was in the “grand final” of defensive performances in his vast experience and fellow premiership coach Phil Gould said it was one of the best he had ever seen.
With Bennett back at the helm, Brisbane are leading the table after 15 rounds for the first time since 2005, showing little signs of suffering their traditional State of Origin period slump.
And fans south of the Tweed River must start considering the possibility of the first grand final without a NSW team since Brisbane defeated the Storm in 2006.
“If you go in that dressingroom now a few of the boys struggled to sing the song,” Brisbane captain Sam Thaiday said.
“That’s when you know guys are really spent and left everything out there on the field.”
Jake Mamo produced one of the plays of the year however it was not enough to inspire Newcastle to victory with the Knights run down 30-28 by Cronulla.
Mamo leaped over the dead-ball line and batted the ball back in for Carlos Tuimavave who planted it for a memorable four-pointer.
Canterbury and NSW both face a nervous wait after Josh Jackson was put on report for a lifting tackle during the Bulldogs’ 24-12 win over Penrith.
The Bulldogs overcame Brett Morris and Trent Hodkinson being rested and Josh Reynolds’ sin-binning while Panthers hooker James Segeyaro suffered a worrying knee injury.
Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson put on a masterclass in guiding his side to a 36-14 win over the Gold Coast.
Johnson set up two tries and crossed for a double in a 20-point haul.
The Cowboys proved their premiership bona fides as Johnathan Thurston nailed a last-minute field goal in their nail-biting 21-20 win over Canberra.
Thurston had two previous attempts at one-point charged down before finally nailing the match-winner as the Cowboys held onto second spot.
Meanwhile the Sea Eagles relieved the pressure valve on coach Geoff Toovey with a 30-20 win over the Wests Tigers.
Kieran Foran starred while fullback Brett Stewart continued his love affair with Brookvale Oval, crossing for a double.