NRL 2022, round 1: Brisbane Broncos defeat South Sydney, Kurt Capewell field goal, Selwyn Cobbo shines
The Broncos stood up in the absence of Adam Reynolds, but his return will cause some stress for Kevin Walters, with the No.6 jersey still up for grabs.
Kevin Walters’ Red Hill renaissance is underway after the Broncos overcame the loss of Covid-stricken star Adam Reynolds to produce a Bunnies boilover in a pulsating season opener at Suncorp Stadium.
Before 32,002 fans, the Broncos may have lost Reynolds but it was the club’s other big-name buy, stand-in skipper Kurt Capewell, who put the boot into South Sydney as Brisbane triumphed in an 11-4 slugfest.
Without the class of Reynolds, it was never going to be pretty. But this was beautifully brutal.
After leaking like the Titanic last season, the Broncos have rediscovered their defensive steel and it laid the platform for a victory that suggests Walters’ troops will not be whipping boys in 2022.
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Forwards Payne Haas, Capewell and Pat Carrigan were magnificent, delivering the muscle for makeshift halves Albert Kelly and Billy Walters to outpoint Rabbitohs rivals Cody Walker and Lachlan Ilias as hungry Brisbane swarmed on Souths errors.
The Broncos led from start to finish, Kelly opening the scoring in the 23rd minute with an 80-metre intercept for a 6-4 half-time lead before Capewell snapped a 76th-minute field goal to bury the Bunnies.
“Our defence was the best it’s been since I’ve been here,” Walters said. “That’s the sort of desire you can build a team around. It was a great win.”
PLAYER RATINGS: A STAR IS BORN
Brisbane’s defence last season was largely diabolical. No team can concede 695 points at almost 29 per game and expect to play finals football.
But the Broncos’ greater intensity and punch in defence in the 2022 season-opener was palpable. There is more unity. Better communication. Increased desperation.
Souths cracked Brisbane just once from 40 sets and the home side’s attitude without the ball was typified by new recruit Capewell, who amassed 32 tackles and has added more solidity to their left edge.
HALF THE BATTLE
Without Reynolds, Kelly stepped up with one of his finest performances in the No.7 jumper.
His kicking game wasn’t perfect, but Kelly forged a slick union with halves partner Billy Walters, who came alive in the second half as he tested the Souths line with his fast feet.
Coach Walters has a major selection headache dropping one man as Reynolds prepares to return for next week’s clash against the Bulldogs.
“Both Billy and Alby played really well,” Walters said. “Alby’s intercept was classic stuff and the team never questioned Billy. They know the sort of character he is.”
PAT ON THE BACK
Many players take 12 months to hit their straps after a knee reconstruction. Carrigan needed just 80 minutes.
The Broncos lock was simply tireless, providing excellent support for the always-brilliant Haas as he repeatedly threw himself into the teeth of the Souths defence.
After snapping his ACL last May, Carrigan has returned a more rounded player. His energy, footwork, midfield charges and ball-playing before the line was first class.
Haas, meanwhile, is simply a genetic freak. The 118kg prop is Brisbane’s everywhere man, compiling 43 tackles and terrorising Souths with 168 metres.
Welcome Selwyn Cobbo. You are a future NRL superstar.
Brisbane have tried to temper the hype surrounding Cobbo but it is hard to ignore the class oozing out of the baby-faced 19-year-old rated the Broncos’ version of Latrell Mitchell.
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Cobbo went within inches of scoring a spectacular try in the eighth minute and showed he’s not afraid to take dirty hit-ups off his tryline.
“His energy with his carries was outstanding,” Walters said. “When he crosses that line, he lights up the field. There was pressure on him to deliver and he did that.”