Brisbane have underlined their finals ambitions with a thumping 38-0 Magic Round victory over Manly at a packed, vociferous Suncorp Stadium.
This was the second week in succession that they have turned over a top four team from 2021: their win against Souths last week proved that they are the real deal, and this only underlined it further. Brisbane are back.
“It’s certainly up there,” said Walters when asked where the result stood in his best at the Broncos.
“The nil scoreline is very pleasing, and that’s the best start to the game since I’ve been seen here, so it was really pleasing.
“The inclusion of some senior players (has helped) with Adam Reynolds, Kurt Capewell and Ryan James, and the attitude and the steel of the players to change what is happening.
You can talk about things and how you’re going to try to do them, but the actual changes come from within and that’s been the big turnaround for us. It’s great to see.”
Selwyn Cobbo was the hat trick hero, but this was yet another tale of Adam Reynolds brilliance, with the halfback putting on a kicking clinic and having well above his average in terms of possessions. If it seemed like he was everywhere, it was because he was.
Kevin Walters might have expected big things from his star recruit, but the performances of the last month will have surpassed even the highest expections.
Reynolds was everywhere: he created the first three tries – two for Cobbo, one for himself – with exceptional short kicking, but it was his long kicking, which has long been the best in the NRL, which brought a near-insurmountable field position advantage.
“For the last few years, we haven’t been able to finish our sets off the way that we like to,” said Walters.
“He’s one of the best kickers in the game and that helps your defence in terms of where and how you turn the ball over.”
In the first 15-20 minutes tonight, you saw his influence on where we turn the ball over. It’s got a big say in things.
For Manly’s part, they were caught in a perfect storm. They hit a red hot Broncos side in a bearpit atmosphere, but also did little to help themselves.
The completion rate sitting south of 70% told one story, but perhaps more damning was that late in the second half, Daly Cherry-Evans had run for more metres than any Sea Eagles forward. Tom Trbojevic, with a big strapping on his knee, moved with little ease and doesn’t look close to fit.
“it wasn’t one of our better nights,” said Kevin Walters. “They started with plenty of energy and that’s something that we can handle better.
We know that we have points in us and that we can score quick points, but we were pretty ordinary with possession.
We finished up 65/35 in possession – it’s not an excuse, it puts the blame pretty fairly on us. It’s disappointing.”
Manly allowed the kick off to bounce out and provided the Broncos with immediate field position. They took immediate advantage: Adam Reynolds kicked and Selwyn Cobbo rose highest to score.
The barrage continued, with the Broncos enjoying two thirds of the ball and even more of the territory. Kurt Capewell twice went over, but was pulled back for a knock on and a forward pass respectively. An additional two points, taken via the boot of Reynolds, seemed scant reward for the pressure.
Manly were desperately struggling to make headway. Tom Trbojevic fielded a bomb over the line, but spilled the ball in what would be their only chance of the first half.
When, with 35 minutes on the clock, they forced a drop out and could have had a good ball set, Tyson Gamble stole the footy on play one.
The Broncos would end the half as they started it, with a piece of Reynolds brilliance. This time, it was his own work: the halfback chipped, chased and regathered to take the lead out to 14-0. It might have been more emphatic, had a last second field goal from Reynolds not sailed wide.
The second half started as if the first had not ended. Corey Oates was denied by a Christian Tuipulotu tackle at the corner, but moments later on the other side of the field, Adam Reynolds dinked for Cobbo again to gather with ease and score.
Cobbo didn’t need any help to make his impact on the game, but he got some more. Dylan Walker, desperately searching for points, threw a speculator that the winger pouched. The next 95m were a formality.
Manly needed a miracle, but the arrival of the rain put paid to any hopes of a sparkling comeback.
Corey Oates defied the conditions that had sent fans scattering to the back of the Suncorp stands to slide in at the corner, and would stride through again untouched to underline the score.
It could have been worse, had a late bunker decision not gone against Kobe Hetherington, but the Sea Eagles got the reprieve that stopped them finishing the game as badly as they started it.