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Newcastle Herald

League of their own

Date: 28/09/1998
Words: 844
          Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: Sport
Page: 61
BRISBANE'S dominance over Canterbury in yesterday's National Rugby League grand final at the Sydney Football Stadium was summed up in one farcical passage of play late in the match.

The Broncos scored five tries after half-time in a burst of 28 unanswered points to win 38-12, maintaining their perfect record in premiership deciders, equalling the record for most points scored in a grand final and nominating themselves as the most complete side in the club's 11-year history.

Appropriately described by coach Wayne Bennett as a `clinical football team', the Broncos clicked into overdrive in the second half after a sputtering first 40 minutes to slam the book shut on the possibility of a Canterbury fairytale.

The difference between the two sides was best illustrated in the 68th minute when the Broncos, leading 26-12, were hammering away at the Bulldogs' line.

Another try seemed a formality but Canterbury fullback Rod Silva picked off a pass and set sail for the southern end of the ground, in his mind carrying with him the last hopes of another Bulldog comeback.

Surrounded by only a handful of players, referee Bill Harrigan stood his ground signalling the Brisbane penalty but play continued for almost three tackles before the rest of the players realised their efforts were futile.

The Bulldogs were playing fantasy football but reality was 90 metres and too many points away.

Two plays after Brisbane's penalty tap they were in again through hooker Phillip Lee, one of several `no-name' Broncos to stand up on the game's biggest stage and earn equal billing with their superstar team-mates.

`Young blokes like (Tonie) Carroll, (Michael) Devere and Lee made a difference,' Bennett said.

`Good on Gorden Tallis (for winning the Churchill Medal) but there was no obvious player which I suppose shows how much of a team performance this was.'

Canterbury absorbed Brisbane's best shots in the opening exchanges to eke out a 12-10 lead at half-time.

There were ominous signs in the third minute when Bulldogs centre Willie Talau coughed up possession in a tackle close to his line and Devere, a late starter for Michael Hancock, toed ahead to score.

Darren Lockyer's conversion from out wide gave the Broncos a dream 6-0 start which could have been extended four minutes later but a Steve Renouf try was pulled back because of a forward pass from Kevin Walters in the lead-up.

Back-to-back penalties put the Bulldogs on the attack and Daryl Halligan converted with the second of those to trim Brisbane's lead to 6-2.

Canterbury continued to apply the pressure until second-rower Tony Grimaldi found a way through in the 22nd minute, although half-back Corey Hughes appeared to pass off the ground in the lead-up.

Halligan converted to give the Bulldogs their first lead at 8-6 but the Broncos were back in front in the 28th minute when back-rower Kevin Campion crashed over out wide.

There was also some doubt about that try as replays showed Campion could have grounded the ball on the hand of Canterbury winger Gavin Lester.

Just as quickly as the Broncos regained the lead at 10-8, the Bulldogs poked their noses back in front 12-10, three minutes later.

Prop Steve Price stepped inside Gorden Tallis and away from Kevin Walters to put Talau over in the corner.

But there was no stopping the Broncos in the second half, with the first of their five tries coming just three minutes after the break when Carroll beat three defenders after storming onto an Allan Langer pass.

Langer's short balls to support players running at speed cut Canterbury to pieces as the game progressed to its inevitable conclusion.

The Broncos cut out the mistakes they had been making in the first half while the Bulldogs began squandering their possessions as they tried in vain to play catch-up.

Only a desperate tackle by Silva stopped Renouf scoring a run-away try in the 51st minute but a quick play-the-ball and extra numbers meant Wendell Sailor scored anyway to stretch Brisbane's lead to 20-12.

Any hope of another remarkable Canterbury comeback was brutally snuffed out when Tallis charged over from dummy-half on the hour.

Lockyer's conversion, from in front, made it 26-12 and converted tries to Lee (69th) and Canterbury-bound centre Darren Smith (75th) merely underlined the difference in class between the sides.

Canterbury coach Steve Folkes joked that `at least it gives us somewhere to go next year'.

Bennett, who is about to take the Australian coaching reins for next month's Trans-Tasman Tests, said he would worry about that later as the Broncos began planning their victory celebrations.

`We won Super League last year, we won the World Club Challenge, we played a dominant role in the State of Origin and now we've won the premiership,' Bennett said. `There's nothing more to do now.'

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