[Source: NRL News]
Brisbane centre Kotoni Staggs staked his claims for an Origin recall after helping the Broncos retain their place at the top of the NRL ladder with a gritty 20-12 defeat of the Sharks.
Staggs, who debuted for NSW in the opening game of last year’s series but lost his place after suffering a shoulder injury, ran 185 metres with the ball and scored a try, produced a try assist, a line break and nine tackle breaks.
The Broncos had Reece Walsh, Pat Carrigan, Payne Haas and Tom Flegler backing up from last Wednesday night’s Origin series opener at Adelaide Oval, while Cronulla halfback Nicho Hynes played 12 minutes for the Blues.
Yet the visitors finished stronger and despite having just five second half tackles inside the Cronulla 20-metre zone they never looked like surrendering their 14-6 halftime lead.
In comparison, the Sharks had 41 tackles down Cronulla’s end of the field but only scored two tries.
The win gives Brisbane outright lead of the NRL premiership but they could be joined on 20 points by the Panthers and Storm before the end of Round 14 on Sunday.
However, the Broncos are yet to have any of their three byes, while Penrith and Melbourne have had two each.
Staggs opened the scoring for the Broncos in just the sixth minute after Jordan Riki picked up a kick and raced 70 metres before being tackled near the Sharks line.
Staggs ran out of dummy half and forced his way over the tryline from close range.
The Sharks hit back midway through the first half with a long range try of their own after Nicho Hynes ran at speed towards the defensive line from a scrum win near halfway and put Siosifa Talakai racing through a gap to score.
The Sharks appeared to gain control after Talakai’s 22nd minute try but a length of the field try by Broncos five-eighth Ezra Mam swung momentum back in favour of the visitors five minutes before halftime.
Brisbane winger Jesse Arthars extended the Broncos’ lead to 14-6 just before halftime after regathering a chip kick into Cronulla’s in-goal by Staggs.
Arthars was denied a second try just after halftime and it took until the 68th minute before England World Cup centre Herbie Farnworth made the next impact on the scoreboard after finishing a backline movement to score out wide.
Sharks fullback Will Kennedy regathered his own grubber kick to score just four minutes before fulltime but it was too little, too late for the home team, who are now two points behind the Broncos on the NRL ladder.