Milford solid but fast-finishing Brisbane Broncos outmuscle Newcastle Knights
He might not have been able to inspire the Newcastle Knights to victory on Thursday night but early signs were good for mid-season recruit Anthony Milford.
Playing his first game in nine months, the newly-minted Knight lived up to the hype against Brisbane, the club where he spent seven turbulent years.
He seesawed between hero and villain during his time at Red Hill but Milford proved on Thursday he could be a Knight in shining armour on Newcastle’s quest to salvage its season.
He’ll have to wait for his first win in Knights colours though; even without Adam Reynolds (groin injury), the Broncos surged in the second half to notch their first five-game winning streak since 2017.
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The victory wasn’t without controversy; Dane Gagai had a try rescinded for an apparent knock-on then Selwyn Cobbo had one paid despite a clear obstruction in the lead-up.
But Knights coach Adam O’Brien refused to blame The Bunker for the loss.
“(The missed obstruction call) is no reason for that scoreline at the end. It’s inexcusable,” he said.
“I get that it took a bit of wind out of the sails ... It didn’t help.”
The second call opened the floodgates and Brisbane cashed in; the end score (36-12) didn’t do justice to the Knights, who were the better team for most of the first 60 minutes.
“It was good. Tough win,” stand-in Broncos skipper Kurt Capewell told Nine.
“It obviously wasn’t how we wanted to play in the first half but we addressed it at halftime. It was good to see the boys show a bit of resilience and fight back.”
Despite the blowout and some wobbles in the second half, there’ll be plenty for Knights fans to like about Milford’s club debut.
“I thought he had some really good touches early. He’d like some stuff back in the second half,” O’Brien said.
The former Origin star looked dangerous on the right side, especially in the first half, and clearly had a calming influence on the under-fire Kalyn Ponga.
The Knights opted to attack down the right throughout the evening and with good reason: the combination of Milford, Dane Gagai and Tyson Frizell will ask serious questions of oppositions as the season goes on.
NSW Origin star Frizell has already proven a favourite target of Milford’s, scoring the first try on Thursday, and could find himself hitting the scoreboard more often in the coming weeks.
Best of all, Milford’s willingness to take on playmaking duties left Ponga free to roam around at fullback. If the two can perfect their chemistry, there’s no telling just how potent they could become as a double act.
“He’s only going to grow,” Ponga said of Milford.
“He’ll start to get more confident, which is what we need from him. I thought he looked good out there.
“It was awesome to be out there with him, to be honest.”
What better chance for Milford to open his account as a Knight than against the mercurial Warriors next weekend.
Bradman comes off second-Best
The Knights have been hampered by injuries all season and Bradman Best looks set to be the next man spending time in the casualty ward.
The barnstorming left centre dislocated his elbow as he attempted to break his fall in the second half. He played no further part in the game.
“It doesn’t look good,” O’Brien said.
“Bad call” robs Gagai
The Knights went into the sheds tied 6-6 but were arguably unlucky not to have been in the lead.
In his first game back from a fractured cheekbone, Gagai juggled a Milford grubber and flopped over for a try in the corner — or so he thought.
Replays showed the ball fell slightly from Gagai’s grasp as he grounded it. The Bunker ruled that he failed to re-grip the footy in the split second before it hit the turf and the try was rescinded.
“That’s ridiculous,” Michael Ennis said in commentary.
“Dane Gagai releases his hand, the point of his fingertips, to be able to press the ball down with his forearm. It never comes away.
“That is a bad call.”
The missed opportunity came after Frizell bombed what could have been his second try.
Originally published as Milford solid but fast-finishing Brisbane Broncos outmuscle Newcastle Knights
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