FROM the moment James Graham charged out of the defensive line to flatten Josh McGuire in the opening set of the match, it was clear the Dragons, featuring Gerringong’s Tariq Sims, of old had arrived at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
What followed was a barnstorming first half performance that left the Broncos players and more than 47,000 fans in attendance at Suncorp Stadium in shock.
Graham may have left the field with a concussion in the 24th minute, but it didn't stop the remainder of the Dragons forwards imposing their will on the game.
The team’s early season success was built on the back of their dominant forward pack and it was much the same on Sunday, with Tyson Frizell and Tariq Sims leading the side from a 10-2 deficit to a 28-10 half-time lead.
Sims broke the game open with a first-half hat-trick, the third try coming after he shrugged off younger brother Korbyn in the 37th minute.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor praised his forwards for outplaying a highly touted Brisbane pack in what he described as an outstanding victory.
“You’re coming up against a side like Brisbane where they’ve got some highly talented, powerful backrowers,” McGregor said. “They’re the talk of the town, everyone’s talking about them playing representative footy at the highest level.
“I’ve got my backrow that I think is as good as any, so it was their task today. You go Tyson, then you go Tariq and Jack De Belin, I wouldn’t swap those three.”
The Dragons opened the scoring in the second half through Tim Lafai, but then, much like they did during the regular season, the wobbles emerged.
Suddenly a 24-point lead had shrunk to 16 and after Jack De Belin and Gareth Widdop left the field with ankle and shoulder injuries respectively, the visitors looked to be on shaky footing with 22 minutes still to play.
Up stepped the most maligned player in rugby league, Ben Hunt.
With his halves partner off the field, it was up to Hunt to steady the ship and that he did.
Hunt's kicking game helped pin the Broncos back in their own half and when Brisbane made errors working the ball out, the Dragons were good enough to close out the game in the final 15 minutes.
Tries to Luciano Leilua and Matt Dufty eliminated any hope of a comeback, with Dufty crossing in the final play of the match to secure a comprehensive 48-18 victory.
With just one player left on the bench, McGregor was pleased with the way his side fought to regain the momentum midway through the second half.
“It was 34-18 and we were down to one interchange, which I thought could really hurt us, but the boys showed a lot of really good character and pushed through when they were under fatigue. To manage to come out the other side of that momentum and put some points on was great.”
The Dragons will be left to count the cost of the win, however, with Widdop re-injuring the shoulder he dislocated in the round 22 loss to the Eels and De Belin re-injuring the ankle that had him in serious doubt of missing Sunday’s match.
While not too concerned about De Belin’s injury, McGregor revealed Widdop’s shoulder dislocation will force him to miss next Saturday’s clash with the Rabbitohs.