Sam Thaiday back in State of Origin frame
Brisbane forward Sam Thaiday has thundered back into the State of Origin frame as he rebounded from a long-term injury in Brisbane's 36-10 thumping of an off-colour Manly at Suncorp Stadium.
Thaiday had been sidelined for six weeks with a calf injury and couldn't get up for the Origin opener, ruling himself out via a phone call to Mal Meninga just days before the squad was selected.
His hustle and bustle around the edges was badly missed by the Maroons as NSW took a 1-0 lead in the series. But the big back-rower looked as fresh as a daisy in some quality stints against Manly, hitting the line hard and clattering into the defence as part of a stellar collective effort from the Brisbane forward pack.
Ben Hannant and Josh McGuire were two of the other leading prime movers as the Broncos joined the logjam of teams on 14 points in a congested NRL ladder and condemned the Sea Eagles to their biggest loss of the season.
The Broncos had just the two players, Corey Parker and Matt Gillett, backing up from Origin, a luxurious scenario for a club that can often have half a dozen players on the representative rebound.
Gillett had a difficult night on Wednesday but rekindled his form in brilliant fashion, rubbing salt in the Manly wounds with a 90m runaway try with eight minutes remaining to leave Geoff Toovey bereft of answers in the coaching box.
Centre Justin Hodges was rested after his efforts on Wednesday night but Manly noticed their outs more than the home side, with Anthony Watmough (bicep) and halfback Daly Cherry-Evans (knee) the chief casualties.
Jack Littlejohn was called in to partner Kieran Foran in the halves but Manly never appeared overly threatening without Cherry-Evans, lacking direction all afternoon despite a gutsy effort from Foran, who battled away behind a beaten pack and scored his side's first try (32nd minute).
While Brisbane could barely put a foot wrong in a display of inventive and confident attacking football, the Sea Eagles couldn't take a trick, having a Steve Matai try disallowed in the 25th minute for obstruction before Foran crossed over soon after to give them something resembling a sniff going into the half-time break.
It was short-lived, with Dale Copley scoring the first of his double six minutes after the resumption of play to virtually seal the contest against some poorly organised Manly defence, which found itself stretched out wide time and again.
Brisbane looked nothing short of inspired in the first half, running in four tries and adding three in the second to give their fans hope of a showing in September.
Ben Hunt continued his impressive form in the number seven jumper, while Ben Barba remains a steady improver at fullback for the Broncos, particularly with their second-phase play coming to life as Manly struggled to wrap up the ball carrier.
Copley and Jack Reed both finished with two tries, while Jamie Buhrer was the other contributor for Manly with a try in the 69th minute.
BRISBANE 36 (D Copley 2 J Reed 2 M Gillett A Glenn L Maranta tries B Hunt 2 C Parker 2 goals) bt MANLY 10 (J Buhrer K Foran tries J Lyon goal) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: Ben Cummins, David Munro. Crowd: 32,017.