Panthers punished by Broncos
Brisbane blew Penrith off the park 50-18 and rebooted their top-four hopes in the process on a night where Tevita Pangai jnr terrorised and the Broncos backline entertained with flair and guile.
Brisbane's first half was as close to perfect as you get with 20 from 21 completions being the foundation for the 32-0 lead the home side had at half-time.
Five days after a dismal 26-6 loss to the Warriors at the same Suncorp Stadium venue, the Broncos turned it all around as they have on several occasions this year on the rebound from shockers.
Pangai, returning to the starting line-up after a hamstring injury, raged like a beast in a 31-minute stint and had plenty of mates in the forward pack with veteran Sam Thaiday having his best game of the season.
Match: Broncos vs Panthers
Round 19 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
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The razzle dazzle and control exhibited by Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima in the halves will have given coach Wayne Bennett plenty of reasons to believe his side is capable of something special in 2018 if they can replicate that form on a regular basis.
The Panthers have now lost four of their last five games and their unhappy night was compounded by what appeared to be a serious lower leg injury to Jarome Luai, who was a late inclusion at fullback due to a hamstring injury to Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
They are now in danger of missing out on a home final if their form does not turn soon. They started the round in fifth spot on the ladder but could fall to seventh by the end of the weekend.
The clash on Friday night turned early on the back of Pangai's power.
The Tongan international had two line breaks and eight tackle busts in his stellar cameo in the first half and, as he has done all season, turned his impact into points on the scoreboard with tries in the fourth and 12th minutes.
He was rested in the second half and had his hamstring iced on the bench, but the damage was done.
Thaiday wound back the clock in the fourth minute when he ran a slick line off Milford and unfurled a one-handed pass to a surging Pangai to score.
A magic chip by Milford minutes later was then followed through by Kodi Nikorima who soccered the ball 45 metres for James Roberts to come from the clouds and finish a cracker.
Wrestlemania then came to Suncorp Stadium when Pangai twisted, swatted and overpowered his way to the line from close range despite the attention of Viliame Kikau, James Maloney, Waqa Blake, James Fisher-Harris and Luai.
That play on its own reflected how important he is to Brisbane's premiership hopes. The Broncos confidence surged even more on the back of that moment.
Nikorima found a flying Oates and it was 26-nil after 21 minutes. Milford's kicking game to space was sublime and he found acres of room with a kick that Oates chased like his life depended on it.
The ball hit a luckless Christian Crichton on the head and Darius Boyd was on hand to swoop.
Brisbane had the game won at half-time and missed Pangai in the second half as the Panthers fought back with gusto.
Nathan Cleary put a deft cross-field kick in for Waqa Blake to start the scoring in the 46th minute.
Then Maloney and Kikau combined to put Josh Mansour over minutes later to give the Panthers a glimmer of hope.
That was snuffed out when Maloney threw a pass straight to Nikorima who raced away to score.
A Tyrone Peachey classic got the Panthers closer but like a thief in the night Nikorima snaffled his second intercept try off a Dean Whare pass, and when Matt Lodge surged over at the death the Broncos had completed their most emphatic win of the season.
The Broncos are still in eighth position on 24 points but are within reach of a top four position if they can keep winning, while also being three wins clear of the Raiders in ninth spot.
News & Notes: Broncos coach Wayne Bennett notched his 500th win of his premiership coaching career. Bennett's teams have won 500 games from 806 (62.03%) since he kicked off his coaching career with the Canberra Raiders in 1987..Former Test winger Josh Mansour returned after missing 13 weeks with facial fractures in round six…. Panthers captain Isaah Yeo played his 100th NRL game… Broncos fullback Jamayne Isaako put on another goal kicking masterclass with his six from six taking his season points tally to 161...Panthers fullback Jarome Luai hurt his left ankle late in the first half and did not return…Crowd: 26,357