Thursday night’s NRL game was built as the personal face-off between State of Origin hopefuls Kotoni Staggs and Siosifa Talakai.
With the injury to Latrell Mitchell likely to rule the Rabbitohs centre out of Origin I on June 8, New South Wales coach Brad Fittler is on the lookout for a new three-quarter.
Staggs has been waiting in the wings for a Blues jumper for a number of seasons, while Talakai leapt out of the ground last week with a monstrous game against Manly.
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Right from the get-go at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday, fans could tell they were in for a mouthwatering contest.
An early Talakai carry was met with a Staggs whack that showed the Broncos centre was up for the fight.
NRL Highlights: Staggs leads the Broncos to a tough victory – Round 8
And by full-time there was no question Staggs had won the battle. He scored a brilliant first-half try when he skipped to the outside of Talakai and then held off Ronaldo Mulitalo to find the line.
Then in the dying minutes, Talakai burst over the tryline but was held up by Staggs and teenage winger Selwyn Cobbo.
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“I thought it was fantastic,” Fittler told Nine after the game of the centre battle.
“It tells me that the right side of the Broncos got the victory. A little bit of experience from Adam Reynolds helped.
“Kotoni, going out with a defensive mindset, but then being able to score that try at half time, tells you a lot about what he’s capable of.
“Focus on defence but then still has the power to stand up Talakai and beat the winger to the corner… that was an incredible effort.”
Even the opposition coach had to admit Staggs won the battle over Talakai.
“He was a bit flat,” Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon said of his own player.
“(Staggs) is a hell of a player. He’s a quality player.”
Tellingly, Fitzgibbon has been a member of Fittler’s Blues coaching staff. He won’t be this year, given he is now an NRL head coach.
Staggs brings out the party tricks
Broncos playmaker Tyson Gamble was asked if Staggs had been nervous about the Talakai face-off.
“He was rattled mate, he was so scared,” Gamble joked to Nine.
“Trust me, you wouldn’t want to see him in the sheds. He had a picture of (Talakai) there. He couldn’t sleep.”
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