Brisbane’s stunning collapse from the top 4 to elimination from the NRL Finals is complete after a 22-12 loss to St George Illawarra effectively ended their season and left Canberra in eighth place.
The Broncos, who had everything to play for in Kogarah, barely put themselves in contention before Ben Hunt and Mat Feagai gave Brisbane the last rites for a horror ending to 2022.
Canberra had gone into the weekend believing they would have to beat the Wests Tigers on Sunday to claim their top-eight finish.
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But with Brisbane collapsing, the Raiders will now face Melbourne in an elimination final next Saturday unless they somehow lose by 54 points to the bottom-placed Tigers.
The result also means the Broncos will become the first team since Canberra in 1999 to miss the finals with a winning record.
Brisbane is to blame.
They were in the top four as recently as Round 19, but have since won just one game out of six and conceded an average of 35 points per game.
In turn, they are the only team since the NRL introduced a top-eight system in 1995 to drop out of the top 4 and be eliminated from the Finals so late in the season.
“It’s been the last five weeks, one setback after another,” said Kevin Walters, dejected.
“We just couldn’t get off the screen.
“We have lacked the necessary commitment and discipline in the last five weeks.
“We had that effort and discipline in the first 20 weeks. And then we just let it go.”
It was a bunch of former Broncos who sealed the longest Finals drought in club history.
Of the six ex-Brisbane players on the Dragons team, Jack Bird scored the first try of the game before Hunt took the lead.
In another reminder of why his contract extension beyond 2023 is so important, the halfback went 40-20 up until one try in the first half and jumped free to replace Cody Ramsey for another.
With 13 minutes remaining, he pulled off a crucial tackle against Zac Hosking to maintain the 16-12 lead before putting Feagai wide from 50 yards as he bounced off seven defenders to put the match in the clear.
Since Danny Buderus in 2004, no player has won the Dally M outright without reaching the final, but Hunt led when voting was held behind closed doors and has every chance of winning it.
But trainer Anthony Griffin said it was more than justified.
“There’s nowhere to hide in the NRL and he was outstanding,” Griffin said.
“He was outstanding individually, he was outstanding as a leader for our club.”
Compared to Hunt’s brilliance, Brisbane’s attack was consistently weak as they spit the ball out on three tackling attacks in the first half and then struggled to show bite in the second half.
Te Maire Martin showed dangerous moments from behind before taking a hit while Pat Carrigan ran 181 yards after his suspension.
And even after Billy Walters also managed to level the game back to 16-12 with 20 minutes left, there was never enough spark to threaten a late Broncos miracle.
https://7news.com.au/sport/rugby-league/broncos-complete-shocking-collapse-as-final-loss-knocks-them-out-of-nrl-finals-c-8109200 The Broncos complete a shocking meltdown as they are knocked out of the NRL Finals by final defeat