Brisbane Broncos top Gold Coast in dour game
It was billed as a State of Origin trial but in the end it only proved a test of the Suncorp Stadium crowd's patience before Brisbane ran out 22-8 NRL winners over a depleted Gold Coast Titans on Friday night.
Maroons selectors would have excitedly taken their seats to cast their eyes over the derby in the final audition for hopefuls before the Queensland side was named on Monday night for the May 28 series opener in Brisbane.
However, the Queensland panel would have been forgiven for looking at their watches as much as the field in a dour clash between two sapped teams before the Broncos (5-5) finally kicked ahead.
The once high-flying Gold Coast (6-4) were battling from the outset without fiery forward Greg Bird (suspension), halfback Albert Kelly (leg), Queensland lock Ash Harrison (concussion) and flyer Kevin Gordon (knee, illness).
Titans coach John Cartwright's luck did not change when pivot Aidan Sezer (pectoral) and utility William Zillman (concussion) failed to finish the match.
And Brisbane - already without ex-Test backrower Sam Thaiday - were soon reeling from the pre-game withdrawal of Queensland hopeful Ben Hannant (groin), replaced by David Stagg.
Still, the Titans grabbed an 8-4 halftime lead ahead of 31,380 before Brisbane looked to have snuck ahead in the 43rd minute.
Backrower Alex Glenn crossed, only for the video referees to give the red light after dubiously ruling that Brisbane forward Jarrod Wallace had obstructed the defence.
But the Broncos were not to be denied 14 minutes later when winger Dale Copley sealed a double, running off veteran centre Justin Hodges to lock up the scores 8-8.
And Brisbane jumped to a 14-8 buffer when Test utility Matt Gillett crashed over in the 64th.
Gold Coast were denied a miraculous Anthony Don four-pointer off a kick in the 67th when the video referee picked up a David Taylor knock-on in the lead-up.
Corey Parker's 70th minute penalty drilled another nail in the Titans' coffin before centre Jack Reed's 74th try sealed the result.
Gold Coast drew first blood when Sezer potted a ninth minute penalty.
But Brisbane appeared to have the upper hand in a dour struggle when winger Copley fed off a sublime Hodges face ball to cross in the 31st.
Yet the visitors held the upper hand at the main break 8-4, Don crashing over in the 35th minute.
Besides the ho-hum display, Maroons selectors would have also been concerned by Hodges limping off with what was later diagnosed as a rolled ankle.
Incumbent Maroons veteran centre Hodges was only six games back from an eight-month recovery from an Achilles operation.
"It was not his Achilles. It was his ankle. He needed to come off. It was nothing major," Broncos coach Anthony Griffin said.
"It was an ugly win, losing Hannant didn't help.
"But Gold Coast were brave."
Meanwhile, Titans coach John Cartwright said he "feared the worst" for Sezer and claimed Zillman had copped a "really bad hit to the head".
"It (those injuries) didn't help but we won't use it as excuse," he said.
"But there was a lot courage in the performance.
"We needed to be brave. But we also had to be perfect."
Brisbane Broncos 22 (D Copley 2 M Gillett J Reed tries C Parker 3 goals) Gold Coast Titans 8 (A Don try B Henry A Sezer goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, David Munro