THE team mate of Brisbane Broncos’ Korbin Sims, from Gerringong, prop Matthew Lodge made a good start to his search for redemption in the NRL with a strong 40 minutes in the dominant 38-10 trial victory against M1 rivals, the Gold Coast Titans, at Toowoomba on Saturday.
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The return of Lodge after a season in the Intrust Super Cup, how Kodi Nikorima would handle his start to making the number seven jersey his own, and Corey Oates’ self-requested switch to the back row were the pre-match talking points.
All three provided positive outcomes.
Nikorima took plenty of punishment from the Titans kick-spoilers but controlled most of Brisbane’s attack with dominance in his 60 minutes at halfback; Lodge showed what ball-playing skill he will add to the Broncos’ middle while Oates burst though for a classy try with one of his first touches.
Conversely, key Titans signing Bryce Cartwright played only the first 20 minutes in a roving role and had little opportunity to make any impact while five-eighth Kane Elgey also only played the first quarter as new coach Garth Brennan wanted to look more at his squad’s depth.
Brennan was left with plenty of question marks.
James Roberts again teased his former team, scoring to tries inside the first 13 minutes as the Broncos, fielding the stronger part of their 23-man squad in the first 40 minutes, went to a 20-nil half-time lead.
Just over three minutes into the game, on the back of a holding down penalty, Nikorima put a pin-point grubber kick into the right corner of the in-goal and Roberts’ first touch of the ball in 2018 produced a try when he squeezed through the Titans chasers.
‘Jimmy the Jet’ again tortured his former team when he scored his second in the 13th minute when he slipped between Elgey and Titans new boy Brenko Lee and scored from 25 metres for 8-nil.
Two sets later the Broncos shifted to the left around halfway and left winger Jonus Pearson was put into the clear and stepped past Gold Coast fullback Brendan Elliot to make it 14-nil with Isaako’s conversion from in front.
Coach Garth Brennan rested key playmakers Cartwright and Elgey after 20 minutes, with Jamal Fogarty moving into the halves and leaving the Titans will little NRL experience.
After 32 minutes the Broncos moved to 20-nil through a try to fullback Isaako who broke through the Titans defence on the left edge from 20 metres, with the try converted by Jordan Kahu.
Oates entered the field at half-time and showed what a threat he can be on the edge if the State of Origin winger can fulfil his ambition to become a back-rower in Wayne Bennett’s plan.
He hit a small gap off youngster Sam Scarlett and shook off two defenders to score on the left. Kahu’s conversion made it 26-nil.
The Titans took 59 minutes, when behind 32-nil, to get on the board though five-eighth AJ Brimson from a deft drop-off pass from Joe Greenwood.
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