The clubs facing off in this weekend’s NRL showdowns all have prior finals history. Flashback Friday is reliving a classic post-season clash for each of the upcoming match-ups.
BRONCOS v TITANS
Qualifying final, 2009 – Plucky Titans fall to ‘big brother’ in high-scoring finals debut
The Titans were gallant in their post-season debut, but the third-placed side was eventually outlasted by the wily sixth-placed Broncos in the highest-scoring finals match in premiership history. Brisbane scorched out to a 28-10 lead by halftime, but Gold Coast – spurred on by a Skilled Park record crowd of 27,227 – scored three unanswered tries, including a 95-metre intercept effort by winger Kevin Gordon, to claw back to within two points with 20 minutes remaining. Israel Folau snaffled an intercept of his own to complete a hat-trick and give the Broncos breathing room, before David Mead bagged his second try to narrow the scoreline to 34-32 in the 72nd minute. An engrossing final was put to bed by big David Taylor, who collected the third intercept try of the night to wrap up a 40-32 victory.
RAIDERS v SHARKS
Minor Preliminary Semi-Final, 1989 – Raiders romp past weary Sharks
Canberra dispatched Cronulla 31-10 in a convincing elimination semi win, running away with the match in the latter stages as the Sharks’ midweek playoff appearance began to take its toll. The Raiders led 16-2 soon after halftime, but the Sharks clawed back to trail by just six on the hour mark. A Chris O’Sullivan field goal gave the Raiders some breathing space before they piled on three tries in the last 11 minutes to achieve an emphatic final scoreline.
STORM v COWBOYS
Semi-final, 2005 – Cowboys outlast Storm to grab prelim berth
The Cowboys had been rocked by a 50-6 drubbing at the hands of Wests Tigers on the 2005 qualifying finals weekend, while the Storm guaranteed their passage to week two with a 24-18 upset of Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium. But the northerners, inspired by Dally M medallist Johnathan Thurston – an off-season acquisition from the Bulldogs – and Matt Bowen, raced out to a 16-0 halftime lead after winger Ty Williams bagged a double. The Storm, who featured Matt Orford at halfback patrolling a freakishly talented bunch of youngsters that included Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis, landed on the scoreboard via a Steve Bell try as the referee missed a blatant knock-on and failed to refer the decision to the video ref. Tries to Matt King and Orford trimmed the deficit to just two points, but the Cowboys clinched a preliminary final berth in the dying minutes when Bowen and Luke O’Donnell combined to send utility David Faiumu over, sealing a tense 24-16 result.
The Cowboys are 2-0 against the Storm in the finals (2005 and 2015) #NRLStormSharks
— Martin Gabor (@MartinJGabor) September 3, 2016
PANTHERS v BULLDOGS
Preliminary Final, 2004 – Bulldogs power through to decider
The Bulldogs powered into the Grand Final on the back of an outstanding second half display, overrunning defending premiers Penrith 30-14 after trailing at halftime. Hazem El Masri scored the first try from a Brent Sherwin kick, but the Panthers led 8-4 at the break after Rhys Wesser finished off a 70-metre movement featuring brilliant lead-up work by Preston Campbell and Paul Whatuira. Wesser was sin-binned early in the second half, however, and the Bulldogs charged to a 16-8 advantage while the Panthers were a man short. The champs hung in gamely but struggled to maintain composure and El Masri’s third try in the 72nd minute sealed the Bulldogs passage to the Grand Final. The Bulldogs’ joy was soured by news a knee injury would keep their departing skipper Steve Price out of the decider.