The New Zealand Warriors emerged victorious from a remarkable war of attrition in Brisbane today, surging to a rare National Rugby League (NRL) road win with a record 48-16 dismantling of the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
The Warriors piled on 34 unanswered points in the second half to ease the pain associated with potentially serious hamstring injuries to Manu Vatuvei and captain Simon Mannering and record just their second win in Australia in their last 12 attempts.
The Broncos responded to their own adversity by taking the lead for the first time, 16-14, two minutes into the second half before the Warriors played with the verve of old to construct six captivating tries, including a treble to James Maloney.
The halfback, only available after beating a dangerous throw charge at the judiciary on Wednesday night, ultimately equalled the club's individual points-scoring record of 28 to match the feats of current coach Ivan Cleary and former five-eighth Gene Ngamu.
Maloney scythed through a tiring Broncos defence to record a hattrick between the 62nd and 76th minutes and was also on target with eight goals to justify the club's decision to back him at the judiciary - and risk a two-game ban if he was found guilty.
"We had a few men down but we had to tough it out," an exhausted Maloney told Fox Sports.
"It was could to see the boys do that and play some good football."
Cleary agreed the Warriors performance was "certainly gutsy".
"When you lose two of your key guys in the heat, including an 80-minute back rower and your captain .... there were a few things we had to sort out halftime," he said.
"It was going to be one of those days when the toughest team would win. Some of the fancy stuff was based on good, tough, footy."
Jerome Ropati also notched a second half double as a similarly undermanned Broncos failed to cope with a freewheeling style that saw the Warriors chance 22 offloads to the home side's six.
The concession of 48 points was the most ever by the Broncos in Brisbane, another bitter pill to swallow following the loss of key backs Israel Folau and Denan Kemp.
The ramifications of an injury ravaged first half could be long lasting with both sides losing key personnel with almost bizarre regularity.
Kangaroos and Queensland centre Folau headed the queue to the sick bay when he retreated with a bone protruding from a finger on his right hand after contesting a cross field bomb with Vatuvei.
Folau's compound fracture places him in doubt for the Anzac test in Melbourne on May 7.
He appeared disorientated by the pain and the Warriors were quick to capitalise on his absence by probing the left hand flank.
A Vatuvei surge had the Broncos shorthanded and after spreading the ball left they returned to the home side's weak point where the big wing put Mannering over.
The Warriors captain punched the ground - though not in delight - as he scored, realising he had aggravated a hamstring injury that delayed the start of his season to round two last week.
Mannering joined Folau - who had opened the try-scoring in the 15th minute - on the sidelines and less than five minutes later the Broncos had lost the other prong of their right side attack, one-season Warrior Kemp.
As the wing hobbled off with fractured ribs, the Warriors again displayed a ruthless streak as Vatuvei ploughed down acres of space on the vacant flank before Ropati set up Lance Hohaia.
Leading 14-4, the Warriors' pleasure turned to pain when Vatuvei limped off after the Broncos remodelled backline conjured up a break out try to Matt Gillett.
The Warriors ended the half with a four-point lead but also concerns over Aaron Heremaia (shoulder) and Vatuvei's replacement Wade McKinnon, who dislocated a finger moments after entering the fray.
Fortunately both saw out the match, playing their part in the tryfest after Brisbane snatched the lead momentarily when Andrew McCullough dummied over soon after the restart.
Hooker Heremaia was especially prominent, his clever cross field kick for Joel Moon with 30 minutes to play helped signal the momentum shift.
After their heavy first round loss, where do you expect the NZ Warriors to finish in the NRL regular season?Related story: (See story)