Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett admits he was in awe as James Roberts “wasted” four quality Sydney Roosters defenders on a 70m run to the tryline before adding that Brad Fittler wasn’t crazy enough not to notice.
The game-breaking try in the Broncos 28-22 win over the Roosters was a rare gem.
“It was incredible that try. Against quality football players he just wasted them all in the end,” Bennett said.
When asked whether Roberts’ performance had solidified the case for him to make his NSW debut, the Broncos coach responded: “I don’ think Brad Fittler is that crazy that he didn’t see what he did there tonight.”
Roberts, 25, had left his mark earlier in the second half to set up Jamayne Isaako for a try when Brisbane trailed, but Bennett showcased a trifecta of key moments in the closing minutes as decisive.
“It was a team effort but there were three significant things in that last 10 or 15 minutes,” Bennett said.
“Corey Oates did a run there at one stage and carried four guys with him and went 30 metres and that just lifted everybody.
“Then James did what only James can do. That’s why he is here.
“Then there was young Jamayne’s last try. He backed himself and got himself in a little bit of a slot. They were turning points in the game because they were individual stuff.”
Roberts missed a key tackle on Latrell Mitchell in the first half but Bennett said it was the way he responded that pleased him most.
“He missed a tackle earlier in the game but that will happen to you sometimes,” Bennett said.
“In the past he would have gone out the back door on us but tonight he held it together and picked his game right up. His game was outstanding for the rest of the night.
“The character is in the fact that he didn’t let his demons interfere with the way he had to play for the rest of the game. In the past he has let his demons get to him. He’s grown so much and that is a credit to him.”
The Broncos showed great courage to keep themselves in the game when all seemed lost.
“It was great, wonderful. I’m elated,” Bennett said. “It has been a tough time these last couple of weeks with injuries and we lost one straight after kick-off tonight when Tom Opacic was taken [with concussion]. It was an outstanding effort by a group of guys that refuse to be beaten.”
Opacic was replaced by 19-year-old debutant Kotoni Staggs, who looked at home from the moment he took the field, setting up Oates’ try, scoring one himself and defending with vigour.
“I like what he brings,” Bennett said. “He trains harder than anybody and he brought that to the game tonight. His enthusiasm was great and I thought he did a great job. He got bumped off a few times but got back up and made a difference.”