Official: Class of 2020 worst in Brisbane’s history
It's official. Brisbane's class of 2020 are the worst team in Broncos history.
Brisbane were brave but not even a more spirited display could halt Penrith's surge towards the minor premiership as the Panthers held their nerve to dispose of the Broncos 25-12 at Suncorp Stadium.
With first playing second last, the Panthers were expected to pump Brisbane by 50 but the Broncos played with a spirit and intensity that has been missing for months to make Penrith work hard for their 12th straight victory.
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When it mattered most, Penrith oozed too much class in the halves, with Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai helping the visitors to a 14-6 halftime lead before Brian To'o's 69th-minute effort finished off the Broncos.
Fittingly, Cleary - the best on ground - plunged the dagger with a 77th minute field goal.
For Brisbane, it was a historic and ignominious defeat. Penrith handed the hosts their 14th defeat in 15 games - the first time in Brisbane's glittering 32-year existence that the Broncos have lost 14 games in a single campaign.
It could get worse for Brisbane's Biggest Losers. If the Bulldogs beat the Titans on Saturday, the Broncos will be last on percentages and in danger of claiming their first wooden spoon with three rounds to play.
Brisbane have unearthed another boom forward in Jordan Riki.
The hulking 106kg back-rower celebrated the first try of his NRL career, racing onto a Tom Dearden pass and streaking 40 metres to score a superb solo effort and whittle Penrith's lead to 20-12 in the 63rd minute.
With David Fifita joining the Titans next season, the 20-year-old Riki has the chance to step up.
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HALF THE BATTLE
The Broncos' first 40 was one of their best halves of the season. Brisbane completed at 85 per cent, played direct, ran with intensity, defended valiantly and were the better side in the opening 25 minutes. The reward came when Kotoni Staggs scored in the 10th minute for a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers were expected to belt the Broncos but Brisbane muscled up early. They have simplified their style under caretaker coach Peter Gentle, opting for effort over complex execution.
TOO SMART BY HALVES
While Brisbane tried hard, Penrith's scrumbase smarts proved the difference.
The Panthers' halves were too quick and slick, with Luai setting up one try and scoring another in the 56th minute, while Cleary was in supreme touch, outpointing Broncos opposite Dearden with some sublime kicks.
TOWER OF TERROR
The Broncos' midfield has so much more presence with Payne Haas in the side.
Returning to the side after a two-week layoff following the tragic death of his brother, Haas troubled the Panthers with his size and power running. The 118kg monster amassed 108 metres alone in the first half - double the 56m of rival Penrith props Moses Leota and James Tamou in the opening stanza. Haas finished with 40 tackles and 158m in a heroic display. If only more Broncos played with his heart.
Originally published as Official: Class of 2020 worst in Brisbane's history