The Canberra Raiders' finals hopes have come crashing down after they surrendered a 16-0 lead at half-time to lose 26-22 to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
The Raiders were certainly impressive a fortnight ago against the Tigers, with the returning Josh Hodgson guiding them to an emphatic 48-12 win that had some questioning if they could be a premiership dark horse.
While their momentum from that victory was temporarily stopped by the Representative Round break, they quickly started where they left off as they stormed to a 16-0 lead over a hapless Brisbane outfit.
The Raiders' outside backs were finding easy metres through the middle of the park and it was making Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin's jobs much easier, with the pair looking very dangerous in attack. In contrast, Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima again showed signs of poor game management throughout the first half and it cost them in the third minute.
Milford decided to run it on the last deep within his own half and failed to get anywhere, wildly throwing a risky offload behind him which was picked up by Elliot Whitehead who raced away to score. Eight minutes later the Raiders extended their lead courtesy of a Jarrod Croker penalty goal. Brisbane were slowly building their way back into the contest after a slow start, yet poor execution saw them fail to capitalise on chances they had in the Canberra half.
The Raiders, however, were taking every opportunity they got. A slick left side raid saw Austin put Nick Cotric over in the 30th minute before a 40th minute penalty goal handed the away side a 16-0 lead at the break.
Canberra were well on top in the opening half and despite having a reputation for failing to close out games, few predicted they would collapse against Wayne Bennett's bumbling Broncos.
Unfortunately cracks began to emerge early in the second forty, with Corey Oates beating three defenders on the way to the try line to score Brisbane's first in the 46th minute. Soon after the Broncos were within four. It was no coincidence that Brisbane's second half comeback coincided with a much improved display from Milford and Alex Glenn pounced on a deft grubber by the five-eighth in the 53rd minute to reduce the deficit.
Raiders fans were beginning to get very nervous, with the sequence of events at Suncorp Stadium mirroring their 30-28 loss to the Titans in Round 1 earlier this year.
However, this time the Green Machine had the calming influence of Josh Hodgson, who strolled over for a simple try in the 59th minute to temporarily quash their concerns.
Unfortunately, even the star hooker could not save Raiders fans from another devastating defeat.
Milford featured again in the 67th minute, fooling Austin after shaping to pass to Glenn, before sending it long with the scraps being picked up by Jordan Kahu who went over in the corner. The flashy five-eighth did it all himself three minutes later when he danced through the Canberra defence to hand Brisbane the lead for the first time.
A late penalty goal sealed the victory with the Broncos moving six points ahead of the ninth-placed Raiders.
Next week the Raiders' season well and truly goes on the line when they take on the rejuvenated Bulldogs on Saturday night at Belmore. Meanwhile, Brisbane travel to the Glitter Strip for a Sunday afternoon meeting with the Gold Coast.