Rampant Eels put dent in Broncos' title hopes
THE Broncos' premiership hopes have been sliced and diced by Parramatta for the second time in a month, with a four-try performance from Semi Radradra inspiring the Eels to a thumping 52-34 win in a Suncorp Stadium shootout.
The Eels literally led from the opening minute, with Kirisome Auva'a scoring the fastest try in NRL history - touching down after 11 seconds - thanks to an opening-play brain snap from Adam Blair.
From there, things quickly snowballed against the hosts, with Radradra spearheading a 30-point first-half blitz.
By half-time the Eels led 30-10 and despite an incredibly fast finish from the Broncos, their leaky defence conspired to rock their title tilt off its axis.
No side has ever conceded 50 points in a match and gone on to win a premiership that season, so after sailing into the top two with some excellent performances, Wayne Bennett's men will now need to break new ground to lift the trophy on the first Sunday in October.
In many ways the Broncos were their own worst enemies, making at least half a dozen mistakes in the first three tackles of a set, as they continually coughed up possession in their own territory, inviting the Eels to attack.
However, even when the visitors were coming out of their own territory they were dangerous, with Radradra opening his account with an 80-metre solo special.
By the 20th minute, the Fijian flyer had racked up a hat-trick, scoring his second off a perfectly weighted Corey Norman crosskick and his third off a juggled effort that was slightly controversial.
After Radradra regathered and dived over the tryline, referee Ashley Klein went upstairs with a 'try' call, as the winger was judged to have attempted to regain possession as he hit the ball over a Broncos defender in the scramble to get control of the ball.
The bunker officials agreed, ruling that Radradra was making a genuine attempt to regather the ball, much to the frustration of Darius Boyd and his Broncos teammates.
As Parramatta racked up a matchwinning lead, Brisbane's normally impeccable skipper was as much to blame as anyone, with two uncharacteristic errors resulting in Eels tries.
First he panicked under the pressure of Radradra and the Eels kick-chase, juggling the ball over the sideline to give Parramatta a set from a scrum just 10 metres from Brisbane's line.
Then, when the Broncos needed a good start to the second half if they were any chance to ignite a comeback, he threw a misdirected long ball on tackle one, which Corey Oates dropped in the lead-up to Radradra's fourth of the night.
Another Mitchell Moses conversion blew the score out to 36-10 and there was still 36 minutes left in the game.
Finally the home side started to make some passes stick and build some pressure and in a third consecutive attacking set Herman Ese'ese plunged over for his first NRL try off a beautiful flat pass from Anthony Milford.
In the 61st minute the Broncos struck again, breathing life back into a game that had looked dead 15 minutes earlier, with Alex Glenn powering over from close range.
Milford's conversion narrowed the deficit to 14 points with the best part of 20 minutes remaining and all of a sudden the Eels started to feel some pressure for the first time in the contest.
Cue Radradra, who tormented the Broncos' right-edge defence for the fifth time of the night and after going within a metre of the tryline he flicked the ball up to centre Brad Takairangi to effectively put the contest to bed.
It was another moment that had Broncos players steaming with the officials after a pass from Will Smith in the lead-up was judged to have gone backwards into a defender before hitting the ground for Radradra to scoop up.
Replays showed that Smith's pass had in fact been thrown straight into his own outside shoulder before going forward and should have been ruled a knock on.
They say you make your own luck and on a night when the Eels were irresistible with ball in hand, the decisions went for them too, with Klein pointing to the spot rather than going upstairs for the bunker to review the Smith pass.