The three-time champion Brisbane Broncos have missed the NRLW finals for the first time in the five year history of the competition, going down to previously winless Parramatta 28-16 in the first of a trio of matches at the Central Coast Stadium.
Remarkably, it gave Parramatta a finals’ spot albeit temporarily until the Roosters and Gold Coast Titans match to immediately follow.
Parramatta needed a converted try to claim fourth place, and knock out the Broncos, and captain Simaima Taufa barged over the line with nine minutes remaining to give them that margin, and the win was confirmed by Kennedy Cherrington three minutes later.
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“There’s nothing there… through sheer strength, will and absolute power, the leader Simaima Taufa,” women’s rugby league great Tarsha Gale commented on Fox League.
A spectacular try from a short kick off, started and finished by opposing skipper Ali Brigginshaw kept the Broncos in it, but inexplicably she missed the conversion that would have put the Broncos in front 18-16.
In the end it was inconsequential with two late tries close to the line.
In a concern from the Eels though, Taufa reeled from her defining effort limping, adding to the drama of Parramatta’s win.
“I don’t even know what it is,” Taufa could not elaborate on her apparent leg injury. “They just stay out there (with seven minutes to go with interchange issues).”
Given the two teams also vying for fourth place and last remaining finals’ spot with the Eels, Broncos and Gold Coast Titans had just one win themselves heading, points differential kept Parramatta in the race.
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The Eels just needing a Roosters win over the Gold Coast to qualify for the finals in just their second attempt having played their inaugural season earlier this in a catch-up campaign from 2021 due to Covid.
They were denied on for and against by eventual premiers Roosters last season who slipped into finals on two wins.
For the Broncos and coach Kelvin Wright soul searching with a wooden spoon possible for the NRLW heavyweights if the Titans prevail.
Until round four last year, the Broncos had lost just one match in their history and now have now lost seven matches including last year’s shock upset loss to the eventual premier Roosters at Leichhardt Oval.
One of several pivotal moments for the Broncos was when trailing 10-6 and looked to have hit back with two tries within three minutes to level the scores at 10-all, but the second in the far south corner was fumbled by winger Emily Bass and disallowed.
With gun centre Tiana Penitani off the field it was a momentum switching moment with Parramatta taking a definitive 14-6 lead into half-time.
Parramatta were held up over the line a number of times keeping Brisbane alive right up the final ten minutes when their resilience faltered.
“Gutted for the players,” said Wright post-match. “They sacrifice a lot to play and put themselves in that position.”
“I know we’re a better team than that.”
“Devastated.” Brigginshaw said in tears following the loss. “We know we’re better, we were out enthused by a team that wanted to win more than us, that’s why it hurts so much, we put so much into sacrifices to be here today, and we put in a performance like that. We feel so disappointed for all our fans watching.”
Ahead of the expanded competition in 2023 with the Canberra Raiders, Cronulla Sharks, North Queensland and Wests Tigers entering the NRLW, a shattered Brigginshaw reflected that may help slow season starts going forward.
“With an extended season, you could afford to lose a couple of games and come back and put together team performances … with the longer season, and more training, I think we’ll be able to (hit back)
BRIGGINSHAW-CHAPMAN TIE SCORES
Short drop outs cruelled the Broncos efforts to stay as close as they did, until Broncos’ captain Ali Brigginshaw finally found the flying Jamie Chapman, with a spectacular right on the 10 metre line, to send her flying up field towards half way.
The proceeding set of six would lead to a Brigginshaw try from a grubber delivered by her halves partner Tarryn Aiken, next to the posts, which the skipper inexplicably failed to convert at 16-all.
NO ONE ARGUES WITH ELLIE
Taree product, 21-year-old Ellie Johnston was an unstoppable force to give the Eels their second try next to the goal posts and take the lead out to 10-nil.
Her disdain for the Broncos defence from a 10 metre run up was obvious.
“Look at the intent. Gives the don’t argue to Shenae Ciesiolka, palms her off, and takes another two Broncos over the line,” Gale remarked on Fox League.
It was the first try for the former Under 17 netballer this NRLW this season, second overall, both against the Broncos.
Parramatta co-captain and former Origin centre Tiana Penitani went down innocuously in the first minutes of the match in a huge blow to the left-side defence of the Eels in particular, but Rima Butler did a sterling job to deputise and help the Eels to the win.
Within moments of Penitani struggling from the field, Ciesiolka strode over for the Broncos first try.
Her left knee strapped was not the issue for Penitani but was ruled out of the rest of the match with a quad injury, as relayed by Fox League.
Almost from the moment Penitani left the field, the Broncos heaped on the pressure to bring them back into the contest included the bombed try in the corner by Bass.
Penitani and Taufa could be injury concerns if Parramatta progress
FALCON SAVES BRONCOS
Brianna Clark brought a whole new meaning to using your head on the Central Coast.
Charging off her own line, the Broncos’ interchange prop intercepted a pass from Seli Mailangi out of dummy half saving the Broncos in the 22nd minute with Parramatta still in front 10-6.
“The falcon from Clark has saved Brisbane there, they were in all sorts defensively,” called Ben Homer. “See I can use my head (she’s saying), I’m a thinker,” Gale replied.
EELS CUT OUT BRONCOS
If there was a pass that epitomised the performance of the Eels to try and save their season, it was pass that cut out two Eels.
Brilliance from the former touch footballer found the chest of Zali Fay and a try in the corner to give Parramatta a 14-6 half-time lead.
“The magic of Ash Quinlan, those touch football skills… little wind up, Zali Fay can’t believe her luck,” Gale admired from the commentary box.
That was one of her two try assists and three linebreak assists.