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by Trad McLean, Friday February 16, 2007
Source: Story - Ian Golden, Mark Pickering. Picture - Ian Lovell

STEVE Michaels has thrown the gauntlet down to Wayne Bennett after scoring another two tries in a trial.

 

Michaels came off the bench at halftime and scored twice as the Broncos beat the Celtic Crusaders 32-6 in Wales early this morning Australian time.

 

The match at Brigend was the Broncos first and only northern hemisphere trial leading into the February 23 World Club Challenge at Bolton.

 

Importantly, the Brisbane club emerged from the match unscathed and without any injuries.

 

Michaels’ brace of tries matched his double for the Broncos against Queensland Cup team, the Central Comets, in Rockhampton last week.

 

It gives momentum to his campaign for inclusion in the Broncos’ opening round fixture against the Cowboys on March 16 at Suncorp Stadium.

 

It also doesn’t harm his chances of making the starting 13 for the WCC match against English Super League champions St Helens at Reebok Stadium next week.

 

Another star performer in Wales this morning was prop Petero Civoniceva, who carried on his brilliant 2006 form to take man of the match in his first hit-out of the season.

 

The Broncos certainly ran into some vibrant opposition at Brigend’s Brewery Field, one that had touches of familiarity about it.

 

Apart from Crusaders’ coach John Dixon, Bennett’s former assistant at the Broncos, players Tony Duggan, Jace Van Dijk, Neale Wyatt, Darren Mapp and Damien Quinn had all been through the Broncos’ system at some time.

 

The Broncos opened the scoring after 20 minutes when Shane Perry scarpered from a scrum and put Darren Lockyer (pictured tackling Crusader Luke Young) under the posts.

 

But the Crusaders hit back 10 minutes later when former Cowboy Mark Dalle Cort put Welsh international Grant Epton on his way to the line, the conversion making it 6-all.

 

The Broncos had a 12-6 halftime lead when Justin Hodges snapped up an intercept just before the break.

 

Brought on at halftime, Michaels showed he is keen to cement a spot this year.

Dashing the Crusaders' hopes, Michaels opened his account 80 seconds after the restart, ahead of Karmichael Hunt weighing in with a fine 30-metre effort, whish set the precedent for a more productive period.

Michaels grabbed his second with 18 minutes left, and then Brent Tate crossed in the 69th minute to finish the scoring.

 

The Crusaders had every right to take some kudos for the way they tackled.

 

“We took some pride in defending our line – it was a very creditable performance from us,” said Dixon.

 

It was also a valuable public relations exercise for the small club, who drew their biggest crowd ever to the match and gained maximum press exposure.

 

Local television stations gave live feeds from the ground before the game, radio stations ran competitions for tickets, and Lockyer was the main picture in the local paper’s sporting pages for three days running.

 

“It’s been the biggest night of Welsh Rugby League since the days of Jonathan Davies,” said Crusaders’ operations manager Gerald McCarthy.

 

“It’s been really hard work but it was well worth it – the visit of the Broncos has helped get the Crusaders on the map.”