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Zero heroes: Broncos shut out Bulldogs to snap losing streak

The drought is broken. Brisbane’s club record losing streak is over and Kevin Walters has his first win as coach after the Broncos outlasted Canterbury 24-0 at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was a victory that will mean the world to the Broncos who hadn’t tasted victory for 259 days, since they last beat Canterbury 26-8 at the same ground in 2020.

It took almost an hour for the first try of the game, but it was a beauty as maligned five-eighth Anthony Milford put fullback Jamayne Isaako into space to sprint 40m and score virtually untouched after some fancy footwork deceived fullback Corey Allan.

Isaako proved the difference with his speed setting up Xavier Coates for Brisbane’s second try in the 67th minute as the emotion of a 13-game losing streak breaking started to release from the celebrating Broncos players and 22,509 fans.

Coates rammed home the victory with a try from the kick-off after a penalty goal in the 73rd minute while late super-sub Tom Dearden added the icing by scoring off Herbie Farnworth’s kick in the 78th minute as Brisbane completed the four-tries-to-none win.

“When you play for the Broncos there is always pressure to win and there’s been a long drought between the wins and the players felt that naturally,” Walters said.

“I’m just really happy for everyone involved, particularly the players. It’s been a long time for them.”

Isaako breaking ankles at the back

In further good news for the Broncos, Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett revealed after the game young gun Brendan Piakura had rejected an offer to join Canterbury and would instead re-sign with Brisbane.

The late flurry of points negated what was an otherwise dull game. If either team reproduces this performance next week against Melbourne (Brisbane) or South Sydney (Canterbury) they will be massacred.

The first hour was at best pedestrian and at times laborious. Mistakes were comical and neither side really produced much attack to trouble the opposition.

For a Broncos side that conceded an NRL-leading 624 points last year, the defensive shutout was a step in the right direction and the first time Brisbane has held a team scoreless since they beat the Titans 34-0 on July 8, 2018.

“I said from the start defence was our focus from last November, to hold any team to nil is a great result and that’s probably more pleasing than anything tonight - the zero on the scoreboard,” Walters said.

Among the highlights for the Broncos was the effort of centre Farnworth who was the standout across the 80 minutes, leading the way with 252m, six tackle breaks and three line breaks.

“He was great, really good,” Walters said.

Broncos attack starts to fire as Coates gets a try

“It was good to see him play the football we know he’s capable of playing.

“The bar is high with Herbie, he is a good talent and a good young kid.”

Despite the victory, Walters admitted he will need to find a way to inject Dearden into the game more after the young halfback played just the last seven minutes.

Dearden, however, showed the zip and spark that has been lacking from No.7 Brodie Croft and while Walters said his starting duo “got the job done” there’s no guarantee they’ll be the starting pair next week against the Storm.

“Tommy needs to play some footy. I was trying to get him on before half-time but with the scoreline I didn’t want to put too much pressure on him,” he said.

“I’m happy for him to pick up a try.

Coates leaps high then sprints away to score off the kick-off

“He could (be starting halfback next week) at this stage I won’t make any judgements on team selection for next week.”

With a COVID community transmission case plunging Brisbane into chaos just 24 hours prior to kick off, the Broncos players and team staff were all tested after the victory and placed into a “bubble” arrangement as the club awaits direction on how to operate this week ahead of the trip to Melbourne.

“That will be sorted in the next 24 hours, I’m not sure what restrictions will be put on travel or anything like that. We’ve been told to isolate at home until we get more news through,” Walters said.

“All players and staff were COVID tested tonight, it’s getting a little bit serious.”

Dearden into the game and onto the scoreboard