Broncos Payne as Sea Eagles soar at Suncorp
BRISBANE's forward injury crisis intensified on Saturday night after Alex Glenn and Payne Haas suffered setbacks as Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans engineered a 38-24 belting of the Broncos.
Before 31,118 fans at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane's patchy season continued as the class of Cherry-Evans and the toughness of Jake Trbojevic combined to torment the Broncos.
The Sea Eagles led 18-14 at half-time and went for the jugular after the break to snap a five-match losing streak and leave Brisbane (5-5) floundering outside the top eight in ninth spot.
To rub salt into their wounds, key back-rower Alex Glenn faces a month out after suffering a grade-two medial ligament tear, while 18-year-old Haas sustained a partial shoulder dislocation.
With Origin duo Matt Gillett (neck) and Josh McGuire (ankle) already in the casualty ward, Brisbane's back-row stocks are paper thin heading into Friday night's blockbuster against the Roosters at Suncorp Stadium.
"We're going to be without Alex for about a month," Broncos coach Wayne Bennett said.
"They played well, but we didn't play well at all.
"We make some progress, then we go backwards, we're just not consistent enough."
Injuries are not Brisbane's solitary problem as their forwards were belted in midfield.
Their halves, Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima, are struggling to ignite a playmaking spine hampered by Brisbane's lack of midfield control.
Jake Trbojevic carved up Brisbane, while Cherry-Evans trumped Milford in the battle of the $1 million halves to press his claims for a Queensland Origin recall.
Cherry-Evans can polarise opinion but there is no questioning his talent and the two tries he set-up spotlighted the very composure lacking at the Broncos scrumbase.
Bennett reprised the Milford-Nikorima alliance but apart from one moment of magic when the pair combined for a consolation try, they were outplayed by Manly's halves.
Milford's superb 63rd-minute try, leaping over Cherry-Evans to claim a Nikorima chip kick, underlined their individual skills, but Brisbane won't win premierships with desperate plays when trailing by 16 points.
Bennett, however, defended the duo.
"I keep saying it, those guys can only do so much if their forwards aren't going forward," he said.
Andrew McCullough was classy early, scoring a try and setting up another for a 12-8 lead inside 16 minutes, but the Broncos never looked completely dominant
In a 25-minute blitzkrieg, the visitors piled on 22 unanswered points to rock the Broncos.
Bennett's other tactical decision, moving James Roberts to left centre to accommodate Jack Bird on the right, proved ineffective.
Bird again lacked impact, while Roberts barely saw clean ball in his new position. Roberts' return to the right side 15 minutes from time was evidence the gamble backfired.
By then, the damage was done. Any hope Brisbane had evaporated 13 minutes from time, Joel Thompson winning the race to a Cherry-Evans grubber to plunge the dagger into the spluttering Broncos.
MANLY 38 (J Thompson 2 J Trbojevic 2 A Koroisau A Uate tries D Cherry-Evans 7 goals) bt BRISBANE 24 (J Isaako A McCullough A Milford S Thaiday tries J Isaako 4 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Chris Butler, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 31,118.