Another disappointing defeat for the Broncos as they were beaten by Manly 38 – 24 at Suncorp Stadium.
In terms of the Broncos’ squad for the match, Bennett promoted Nikorima from the bench to replace the out of form Bird in the halves, alongside Milford. Rather than drop Bird from the match day squad, Bennett elected shift the New South Welshman into to the centres, alongside Roberts, and at the expense of the more defensively solid Opacic. Despite significantly underperforming this season, Bennett once again went with Boyd and McCullough in the fullback and hooking roles. In the second row, Bennett elected to persist with the improving Su’A and the defensively porous Glenn on the edges, with the solid and energetic Pangai Jnr filling the lock role. In the front row, Bennett persisted with the productive Lodge and underperforming Thaiday. On the bench Bennett retained the impressive Haas and Ofahengaue as well as the underperforming Sims and Opacic.
As for the Broncos’ on field performance versus Manly, the Broncos’ defence was terrible, with a whopping 48 missed tackles.
That was thanks in no small part to 8 individual Broncos players who missed at least 3 tackles each (Boyd, Isaako and Glenn (3), Bird, Nikorima and Su’A (5), and McCullough and Sims (6)).
While a significant portion of the team’s defending was horrendous, credit needs to be given to Ofahengaue, Pangai Junior, Lodge and Oates, who each only missed 1 tackle for the match.
In attack, Pangai Junior (163), Oates (141), Su’A (140) and Lodge (122) were excellent in terms of their contribution to the Broncos’ go forward, amassing well in excess of 100 run metres each. While the run metre contribution of Ofahengaue (103) was also respectable, and youngster Haas only lasted 9 minutes, before succumbing to another injury which ended his involvement, Boyd (98), Glenn (88), Roberts (81) and Isaako (76) all underwhelmed with their respective efforts, while the production level of Thaiday (52), Bird (28), Sims (22) and Opacic (12) was simply unacceptable.
The repeated lack of run metres from the likes of Bird, Opacic, Thaiday and Sims in particular, and the nepotism Bennett is showing in refusing to give opportunities to the likes of Seve, Shibasaki, Fai and Tagataese, who are all excelling in the Intrust Super Cup, is bordering on negligence from the Broncos’ coach.
In terms of offloads, it was another disappointing effort from the Broncos, with only 9 offloads from their 34 sets for the match.
While the lack of offloads didn’t prevent the Broncos from scoring points against Manly, there are serious questions as to whether the Broncos could repeatedly score tries via those same attacking plays match after match (e.g. a dummy half scoot and barged effort close to Manly’s try line, a freak chip kick play from Nikorima and Milford, and individual brilliance from Roberts for Isaako try).
With halves Milford and Nikorima lacking the creative passing game to regularly generate line breaks through their slight of hand with the ball, but blessed with excellent footwork and acceleration, the creation of second phase play, via offloads, and the ensuing disorganisation in the opposition’s defence, appears to be the most logical attacking strategy to accentuate Milford and Nikorima’s strengths and give them the best opportunity to regular break the opposition’s defensive line or take advantage of simpler line break assist opportunities.
In terms of the Broncos’ kicking game versus Manly, there was regression in the team’s overall production, in contrast to the side’s recent effort versus the Bulldogs (553 metres versus the Bulldogs, and executed 7 grubber kicks, from which they forced 2 drop outs).
In total, the Broncos kicked for 420 metres versus Manly, and only executed 2 grubber kicks, from which they failed to force a drop out.
While Milford was again very good (299 kicking metres) and Nikorima’s contribution was solid (99 kicking metres), the contribution by Boyd (0 kicking metres) and McCullough (0 kicking metes) and the lack of any forced drop outs was very disappointing. It is an aspect of the Broncos’ attacking strategy where Boyd and McCullough have struggled to contribute all season, and drastic improvements from those two players, in particular, is required, if they are to be repeatedly selected in the fullback and hooking role.
Overall, it was a poor performance from the Broncos versus Manly, characterised by terrible defending from Boyd, Isaako and Glenn, but particularly, Bird, Nikorima, Su’A, McCullough and Sims.
While in attack, there was some promising performances from Su’A and Pengai Junior, as well as the usual suspects Lodge and Oates, the Broncos lack of a coherent attacking strategy does not bode well for the future, and at least 2 of the Broncos tries versus Manly (McCullough and Thaiday) were very suspect.
Personnel and tactical changes are urgently needed if the Broncos hold any hope of turning their season around. Positively, the likes of Scarlett, Dargan, Seve, Shibasaki, Pearson, Mosese Pangai, Carrigan, Fai and Tagataese all waiting in the wings and consistently producing in the Intrust Super Cup. Unfortunately, nepotism is evidently rife within the Broncos as repeatedly underperforming players such as Boyd, Isaako, Roberts, Bird, McCullough, Thaiday, Glenn, Sims and Opacic are continually selected. That fault squarely sits with the coach, and with Bennett notoriously stubborn, I don’t expect to see any changes in personnel or on field performances anytime soon.
The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.nrl.com.