Adam Reynolds made a triumphant return to Accor Stadium, masterminding Brisbane Broncos to a 32-12 victory over his old club, South Sydney.
Reynolds described ‘mixed feelings’ coming back to face Souths for the first time and admitted that it had been hard in the days leading up to the clash.
“I have a lot of mates in the team and still have a lot of great relationships,” he said.
“They have been a big part of my career. I played over 10 years at the club and they have been supportive since I came into grade
“I didn’t know what it was going to feel like until I got out here. I’m glad it’s over and I’ll pop into the sheds and have a beer with the boys.
“Me and Jai Arrow went at it non-stop. I knew once we got out on the field there would be some push and shove and a bit of niggle, but it was all fun.
“We got the bragging rights, so I’m happy with that. That chapter is closed; I’m excited about the new one with the Broncos.
“I just wanted to continue our form for the Broncos. That’s more important than an individual who wants something over his old team.”
The Souths legend ended his evening signing jerseys for the Bunnies’ hardcore fans in The Burrow, despite having copped his fair share of digs from fans during the game.
Indeed, the mics picked up an interaction between Reynolds and referee Grant Atkins in which the halfback commented on some of the choice comments, telling the whistler: “I thought they loved me”.
To his credit, Atkins fired back with “They definitely don’t love me”.
Reynolds never got a proper farewell last year, as the comp was relocated to Queensland, and was happy to gain closure on his Redfern period with the Bunnies fans.
“It was only fair to go over and say thanks to them, there were a few boos as well,” he said.
“I expected that in the opposition team, it was all fun and games, but a lot of fans stayed back after the game and I am grateful for what Souths have done for me.”
Reynolds was conductor-in-chief, scoring a try, kicking six from six and hitting over 500m in kicking metres.
It would be no exaggeration to suggest that the difference between the teams was the number 7: the difference between Reynolds, a wily veteran, and Lachlan Ilias, a talented rookie, was written all over Accor Stadium.
“He’s extremely talented, but he makes the other players and coaching staff around him a lot better as well – he’s proven in the opening eight weeks how valuable he is to us already,” said coach Kevin Walters.
“We’re very grateful to have him at our club. He has been consistent for 10 years in the NRL now. That’s one of the reasons we actively searched for him.”
In Round 1, when these two last met, Reynolds had missed out, stuck in Covid isolation.
There was a strong argument that Brisbane had been lucky to win that night. There was no luck in this performance: they were better in every department.
As a team, the Broncos put on a performance that could not have been more perfectly designed to get the best out of their half: they completed high, allowing Reynolds’ kicking to come to the fore, and defended with the enthusiasm that gave them a platform to attack.
“There was no luck,” said Walters. “Souths were a bit off tonight, they’ve got a couple of key players missing. But we’ll take the win tonight.
“It’s a win, which is great, we’re building and getting better each week.”
Souths were plagued by the same issues that have followed them around all year. Their attack is beyond clunky, with poor shape, a completion rate below 70% and far too many errors. While the Bunnies’ did not help themselves with ball in hand, plenty could be attributed to the line speed of the Broncos.
They had triple the number of play the balls in the opposing 20m zone, but regularly failed to make the most of their possession. When the attack fired, it was often met with dogged resistance, with several superb scramble tackles.
“Adam Reynolds was good, but he was allowed to be,” said Souths coach Jason Demetriou. “He got to kick the ball on the front foot all the time, we put little pressure on him.
“We gifted them 18 points through not defending kicks and intercept tries.
“I don’t think we were here to win the game. We showed some glimpses in the first half, but the second half was as disappointing a half of footy as we’ve played all season.
“Our completion rate and effort areas were particularly ordinary.
“We left three tries out there tonight with drops over the line. There’s no doubt that we created opportunities, but the longer the game went, the scoreboard pressure was on us and that affects how you attack.”
The kicking was the key for the Broncos throughout and created the first try as Reynolds kicked and Corey Oates rose far above Blake Taaffe to give the Broncos a deserved lead.
The Broncos had opened the scoring, but their defence was saving them just as many points at the other end. Taane Milne would have scored but for a decisive late play at the football from Herbie Farnworth to save the try. Kobe Hetherington then denied another try with a superb hit on Jai Arrow that dislodged the ball.
Souths were losing the ruck and allowing too many cheap metres from offloads. Selwyn Cobbo had gone close off a play that seemed halted, only to burst back into life with the winder slaloming through static defenders.
The breakthrough was coming, and it was the returning star to provide it on the half-hour mark.
South Sydney’s problems with the second phase continued. They failed to stop Thomas Flegler in his tracks, and when he offloaded to Patrick Carrigan, the Bunnies also failed to cover the ball. Reynolds, ever alert, was on hand to take the ball under the sticks.
Brisbane had banked the points and continued to back it up with the defence. When, again, it looked like the dam had been breached, a miracle try saver was found, TC Robati stripping the ball from Taaffe on this occasion.
The Broncos’ valiant rearguard had seen them soak up five repeat sets on their line, and with time running down on the half, it was always likely to crack. When it did, it was the same move that had gone so close before: this time, Farnworth was nowhere to be seen as Milne got the Bunnies on the board.
Taaffe’s poor night under the high ball continued. Reynolds was again the architect, with a high kick prompting the mistake. Selwyn Cobbo was there to grab the four points.
Te Maire Martin was feeling as generous as Taaffe. He dropped a Cody Walker bomb and gifted field position to the Bunnies, who struck straight back through Milne.
Reynolds couldn’t be kept out of the game. He kicked a penalty goal – the Broncos’ first of the year – before putting Oates through a hole, from which he fed Farnworth to score.
The Bunnies promoted the football in attack, but couldn’t find any timing and presented few defensive problems for the Broncos.
Eventually, Walker pushed it too far and juggled to Cobbo, who showed impressive toe to run 90m and put the result beyond doubt.
With just three minutes remaining, captain Cameron Murray dropped a ball cold in the shadow of the Broncos’ sticks. It was as good a metaphor as one could wish for.