Brisbane Broncos will play the Melbourne Storm in next Saturday's NRL preliminary final after a 24-10 win over St George Illawarra Dragons yesterday. "We showed great character hanging in there for each other. That allowed us to then go on with the job," said the Broncos captain Darren Lockyer. "In the last seven weeks our defence has improved," added the coach Ivan Henjak. "When we were in our mid-season slump we had enough time to turn it around, gaining confidence with each win and giving us our opportunity now for a red hot crack at the finals."
But the four-tries-to-two victory came at a cost, with their half-back Peter Wallace suffering a possible season-ending ankle injury late in the match. Dragons coach Wayne Bennett, who saw his team lose five of the last six games, said: "We were playing our worst football at the wrong end of the season." Castleford make their long-awaited return to the Super League play-offs tonight aiming to stage a repeat of their famous victory over Wigan 10 years ago.
The Tigers made history by becoming Wigan's first opponents at the JJB Stadium in 1999 and stunned the home side with a shock 14-10 victory in an elimination play-off. "It would be nice to be able to repeat that," said Castleford coach Terry Matterson, who takes charge of his first play-off tie in his fourth season in charge. "It is a long time ago but we can go there with good memories. They're pretty hot favourites but we've got plenty of reason to go there with confidence."
On Friday night, defending champions Leeds became the first team to earn the right to chose their semi-final opponents after 44-8 win over Hull KR, who lost winger Chev Walker to a broken leg. The Rugby Football League will hold a televised press conference at Headingley next Sunday, where Leeds will decide who they will play on October 2. * With agencies