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Milford winds back clock as Broncos upset Warriors in nail-biter

Anthony Milford has kicked the Warriors finals hopes to the kerb in one of his last Broncos outings, with his oft-maligned boot proving the difference in a 24-22 thriller.

Coming to the end of his multimillion-dollar long-term deal, the former Broncos pin-up proved the difference on a sunny Suncorp afternoon, scoring a match-winning try and laying on two more in his first run-on start since May.

What might have been for Brisbane was made plain twice over throughout the most entertaining of contests, as Milford starred and one-time Broncos whizz-kid Reece Walsh looked most likely to keep the Warriors’ campaign alive.

In the end Walsh's wayward day off the tee – he landed only one of five conversion attempts – was telling, before his commendable final minute, two-point field goal attempt swung just wide.

Milford will join the Rabbitohs next year for roughly a third of his current Broncos salary.

But by cashing in on a rare return to Brisbane's scrumbase, coach Kevin Walters was emphatic when asked if Milford would stay there for the final two games of his career at Red Hill.

"My word he does, particularly on tonight," Walters said.

"It's the best he's played in a long time. He brought his natural game, his defence was really strong, he kicked well and he was always looking quite threatening with the ball.

"We've got a great working relationship, Milf and I. I had no hesitation putting him back in the side.

Vintage Milford gets Coates his second

"We know what he can bring. It's been tough for a lot of players this year and Milf is one of those guys, I'm really happy for him."

After the Warriors wrested back a 12-4 half-time deficit and turned it into an unlikely two-point lead, Milford struck not once, but twice to finish off their finals hopes.

First it was via a clever chip for Tesi Niu to toe ahead once more, the kick-to-kick lead-up only trumped by Albert Kelly's audacious snatch of the Steeden from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak to reclaim the lead.

Looking to keep the unlikeliest of finals fights alive, the Warriors returned serve through Watene-Zelezniak for an 18-18 scoreline, Milford and Warriors second-rower Josh Curran getting well-acquainted with some argy-bargy afterwards.

Milford laughed last with a well-deserved four-pointer of his own, once again laid on by a boot that has copped so much criticism.

A 73rd-minute bomb was batted down first by Corey Oates and then Herbie Farnworth for Milford to burrow over with seven minutes to play.

The 24-18 lead appeared to have the Broncos home and hosed until Euan Aitken was awarded a contentious late try, the NRL Bunker ruling he had beaten Xavier Coates to the put-down after several views of each player's hands nearly simultaneously grounding the ball.

Bunker awards try to Aitken

Walsh's shanked conversion from out wide meant the controversy did not overshadow a superb afternoon of football, though the Warriors' finals hopes have likely faded away with it.

A top-eight spot can still be reached with a calculator by Nathan Brown's nomadic side, but they now rely on other results going their way and it appears a bridge too far.

They at least go out with thrills and spills aplenty, the rarity in this contest that it took almost 20 minutes for either side to fire a shot on the scoreboard.

Not until Milford hoicked a bomb high that both Walsh and Coates swung and missed, was Coates able to trouble the scorers when he scrambled to ground the bouncing ball.

As Milford grew in confidence so too did his influence and in turn, Brisbane's lead.

Twenty-seven minutes in he made a right-side shift sing when he collected a low ball to step inside Adam Pompey before sending Coates over again with a looping long pass.

Peta Hiku is Lionel Messi. Lionel Messi is Peta Hiku.

A Walsh bust out of what began as not much from dummy-half helped the Warriors to fire back within moments through Marcelo Montoya.

A fifth-tackle switch back through the ruck required a desperate try-saving effort from Hiku to keep Milford off the scoresheet.

By the end of the next set referee Matt Cecchin was referring a "humdinger" to the Bunker, a try fit for Steven Bradbury's mantlepiece undone by Hiku's botched grounding after half a dozen Broncos had also failed to grasp the ball.

The veteran centre made amends after the break with a delicately dinked kick into the in-goal area, this time nailing the put-down to trim Brisbane's lead to 12-8.

When Josh Curran spun through from short range, that lead was suddenly a two-point deficit, setting up a nail-biting half-an-hour that had just about everything, not least from Milford.

Press Conference: Broncos v Warriors - Round 23, 2021

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