Brisbane Broncos win fourth NRLW minor premiership

Brisbane’s stranglehold on the NRLW competition has continued after winning another minor premiership and knocking the Eels out of finals contention.

The Broncos secured the NRLW minor premiership, knocked the Eels out of the finals series and gave the Roosters an extraordinary finals reprieve on an afternoon of high drama at Suncorp Stadium.

It wasn’t until the final five minutes of the Brisbane’s emphatic 38-4 win, when barnstorming back-rower Amber Hall crashed over, that the Eels suffered their ultimate finals knockout punch.

The NRLW competition could not have asked for a more climatic end to the regular rounds with the Roosters sitting back at home hoping for a Brisbane win by 16 points, enough to knocks the Eels out of the finals and catapult the Tricolours into fourth.

Earlier, the Titans pulsating 14-10 win over the Knights had secured a finals berth for the Jamie Feeney-coached outfit and appeared to put an end to the Roosters’ dreams.

Broncos players celebrate a try. Picture: Dan Peled/Getty
Broncos players celebrate a try. Picture: Dan Peled/Getty

Next Sunday’s NRL finals series at Leichhardt Oval will see the Broncos play the Roosters, while the Jamie Soward-coached Dragons will take on the Titans.

The Eels’ hopes were dealt a crushing blow in the first half against Brisbane when star fullback Botille Vette-Welsh went down with a serious knee injury and was replaced. As she limped from the field, after a no-contact injury that had officials fearing the worst, Parramatta’s hopes went with her as the Broncos turned the screws.

The Broncos came out on a mission to put on a show for their home fans and with the carrot of a fourth minor premiership in a row as an additional carrot.

The maths was clear. Win by 21 and the minor premiership was theirs.

Remarkably the one and only previous time the Broncos had played on their home ground in the NRLW was 1295 days earlier, when current lock Lavinia Gould played in the inaugural team.

“It’s been a long time, and we felt that. It felt really special out there and it showed in our performance what it meant to us,” Gould said.

We wanted to prove something to ourselves in front of our home crowd, and for our club and our families.”

The Broncos led 16-6 at halftime with tries to Emily Bass, Amy Turner and Shenae Ciesiolka and extended that when winger Hagiga Mosby crashed over after the break to extend the margin to 18.

Shenae Ciesiolka crosses the line. Picture: Dan Peled/Getty
Shenae Ciesiolka crosses the line. Picture: Dan Peled/Getty

Brisbane five-eighth Tarryn Aiken appeared to have laid on a cracker for Mosby minutes later with a perfectly weighted grubber only for Mosby to knock-on while grounding the ball.

The Roosters, no doubt all on the edge of their seats, were soon to get their wish when Brisbane skipper Ali Brigginshaw turned back the clock to weave her way on a 30 metre run to score an individual try for the ages. When Hall crashed over it was all over for the Eels, and game well and truly on for the Roosters.

Eels coach Dean Widders said the loss was “devastating” on several levels.

“It really hurts. We just didn’t expect that. It was a tough job to come here and do what we had to do but it just got harder and harder with different things going against us. That’s footy but it’s just really hard to take, because we didn’t deserve it,” he said.

“(Vette-Welsh) will go for scans but it is not looking real good. It is disappointing for all of women’s rugby league because she’s been such an outstanding player and someone everyone has enjoyed watching.”

Broncos coach Kelvin Wright said his side now had bigger fish to fry in the finals.

“We wanted to express ourselves with the sort of football we could play. I was really proud of them and they should be happy with themselves,” he said.

“(The minor premiership) is a nice little win along the way but it’s not the trophy you set out to win. Next week, pretty much everyone starts again.”

Broncos prop Millie Boyle was a powerhouse up front with 217m from 22 runs while Hall, Aiken and Brigginshaw all brought out their best.

Titans beat Knights in thriller

The class of Gold Coast skipper Brittany Breayley-Nati proved decisive in securing her side an historic NRLW finals berth in a pulsating 14-10 win over the gallant Knights.

It was an afternoon where the brains trusts of the Eels, Titans and Roosters - all on four competitions points in third, fourth and fifth respectively entering the final round - were always going to be reaching for their calculators.

The Roosters, in fifth after their 16-10 loss to the Dragons, needed an unlikely Knights win by 10 points to catapult them ahead of the Titans into fourth and a guaranteed finals berth.

At halftime the Knights led 6-0 in a humdinger arm wrestle, and the Roosters hopes were well and truly alive.

Brittany Breayley-Nati led the Titans fightback. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty
Brittany Breayley-Nati led the Titans fightback. Picture: Mark Evans/Getty

Titans hooker Breayley-Nati, the 2018 Dally M winner and possessing one of the smartest brains in the women’s game, turned the game in the 52nd minute. Her deft kick on the last only went a few metres for Jessika Elliston to score, but its impact was momentous in guaranteeing the Titans a spot in the NRLW finals double-header next Sunday at Leichhardt Oval in their debut season.

Breayley-Nati, who has scaled all the heights in rugby league, said making finals in the Titans debut season “means a lot to me”.

“It’s a special moment with a lot of girls that haven’t played NRLW before, a huge moment for us and the club,” she said.

“I had a year off to focus on family. I’d sacrificed a lot for the game and decided to put my family first for once.

“It’s great to be back on the big stage and repping the blue gold and white.”

RELIEF FOR THE TITANS

Titans coach Jamie Fenney was relieved after “quite a few” nerve wracking moments.

“My phone’s buzzing telling us how good it was to watch even though I’m losing hair by the day. I didn’t start with much but I don’t have any more left,” Feeney said.

“Hopefully semi-finals and the pressure that puts on us brings the best out of us.”

Titans winger Hailey-Jay Maunsell gave her side the lead but the Knights hit back through Katelyn Vaha’akolo to level it up and ensure a nerve jangling final 10 minutes. Maroons champion Karina Brown finished brilliantly in the final minutes to secure victory for the Titans who showed great composure to keep their heads when the pressure was on.

The Knights earlier sent shockwaves through the Titans camp when debutant centre Paige Parker swooped on an Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly kick to open the scoring in the fourth minute.

BRAVE KNIGHTS

The previously winless Newcastle belied their position on the table and scrambled brilliantly to deny the Titans with their goal line defence of the highest quality.

Veteran Titans prop Steph Hancock could be seen rallying her troops in the dressing sheds at halftime for a huge second stanza but the nerves were palpable as the Gold Coast bumbled their first attacking opportunity.

TACKLE OF THE YEAR CONTENDER

Titans prop April Ngatupana then pulled off a cracking try saver when she cut down barnstorming Knights front-rower Phoebe Desmond inches from the line.

In the final wash-up it was a case of April ensuring her side played April finals footy.

Knights coach Casey Bromilow said it was a “bittersweet” end to the campaign, with plenty to look forward to.

“We are guaranteed a licence for the 2022 (competition) and our head of pathways Garth Brennan is going to take the major lead with our recruitment department in looking at how we can retain players and bring in new players to help build,” he said.

“Newcastle is such a great catchment for players but we are probably two or three years away from having the talented girls come out of the Tarsha Gale system...into the NRLW.”

Originally published as Brisbane Broncos win fourth NRLW minor premiership