LAST night’s farewell for Petero Civoniceva was intended to be largely ceremonial – a send-off from the stadium he has graced for 14 seasons.
But for a large chunk of the clash with the only other NRL club Civonceva has played for, it looked like being the absolute end, with his side in danger of missing the finals. Brisbane trailed Penrith at halftime and struggled to find their way throughout, with play breaking down, opportunities missed and balls dropped.
It wasn’t until the 45th minute that the Broncos managed their first try. Centre Justin Hodges made a long break, drew the defence and passed inside to halfback Peter WallacE who stumbled on the way to the tryline before dotting down. Corey Norman goaled to tie the scores.
Then, just seven minutes later, the Broncos hit the front. Back rower Ben Te’o took matters into his own hands after some resolute Panthers defence, arrowing towards the posts from the right and leaving defenders grasping at air. At 12-6 after the conversion, Brisbane looked to have ridden out their own poor period and to be heading for calmer waters.
It didn’t turn out that way.
Panthers five-eighth Lachlan Coote chased halfback Luke Walsh’s bomb, snatched the ball and then forced his way over to the left to the left of the posts with 11 minutes left in the contest. It was a try which video referee Phil Cooley confirmed and with Walsh’s conversion, it was time to consider field goals and extra time.
Norman, the prodigious youngster who lost his number six jersey only to win it back for the final round of the regular season, was eventually the man who ended Brisbane’s run of six straight losses with a Pearl of a ball to the flying Alex Glenn.
Second rower Glenn threw the Steeden skywards and punched the air after his diagonal run delivered a 76th minute try, which Wallace duly converted, for a six-point margin which ticked over to seven with Wallace’s 78th-minute field goal
Penrith led 6-0 at halftime – a scoreline that flattered Brisbane if anything.
Panthers winger Josh Mansour was a prominent figure in the first half. He took a kick under intense pressure early and then was involved in a head-clash when he executed a thunderous hit on Brisbane centre Justin Hodges.
The Bronco received immediate attention before continuing. When Michael Jennings passed to Mansour after the Panthers created an overlap on the western side, the ball went over the sideline because the winger was 20 metres downfield receiving treatment after the clash with Hodges.
The Broncos had the first real scoring chance when centre Jack Reed took a bomb and offloaded to a waiting Dale Copley, who was standing by unmarked just five metres from the tryline. But Reed’s athleticism surprised his team-mate and Copley knocked on.
A superb mid-field offload by Penrith prop Tim Grant released fullback Michael Gordon in the 30th minute, with centre Brad Tighe eventually rounded up by the defence. But on the neck ruck, play spread to the left and the retreating Broncos defence could not adjust in time. Michael Jennings passed behind a defender and man-of-the-moment Mansour crossed in the north-eastern corner.
Walsh’s goal made it 6-0. As halftime neared, replacement Mitch Achurch crashed over between the posts but replays showed the Leeds signing had been held up and Phil Cooley chalked off the try.
Brisbane’s start to the second half wasn’t exactly perfect – prop Josh McGuire knocked on from the kick-off but then played a big role in holding the mountain men out with two tackles in the ensuing sets.
BRISBANE 19 (P Wallace B Te’o A Glenn tries P Wallace 3 goals field goal) bt PENRITH 12 (J Mansour L Coote tries L Walsh 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referees: S Hayne/A Shortall Crowd: 35,178.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD