No Origin stars? No problems! A depleted Broncos outfit have comprehensively beaten the Dragons 32-18 with their young guns stepping up in the absence of several big-name players.
The clash started in fiery fashion with Tariq Sims being sin-binned twice in the first 25 minutes, while it became clear that the Dragons’ game plan was to target Brisbane’s chief playmaker Adam Reynolds.
The Broncos capitalised on the Dragons being one-man down and scored first, but it wasn’t long before the Red V hit back.
It was a seesawing affair with both sides going try for try until the Broncos put their foot on the gas in the second half.
All eyes were on star centres Kotoni Staggs and Moses Suli who went up against each other in a stunning battle.
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STAGGS WINS ‘MOUTH-WATERING’ SULI BATTLE
Braith Anasta highlighted the “mouth-watering” battle between star centres Kotoni Staggs and Moses Suli pre-game and it didn’t disappoint.
Suli struck first, busting off four Broncos players to score. It was the type of try that summed up how much he’s turned his career around since joining the Dragons.
“That is a great run from Moses Suli… an absolute beast. He got rid of Willison, was too powerful for Niu and as soon as he got this ball he wanted to cause carnage,” Cooper Cronk said.
“He came into today with 72 tackle busts for the season… he’s certainly in the conversation for one of the better guys of the season after what he’s done for the Dragons – and they have him on a three-year deal,” Fox League commentator Andrew Voss added.
“If he stays in a mood like this he’s a threat to any defence.”
But Staggs hit back four minutes later, stepping around Suli to score.
“That two-step, one off the right, one off the left throws Suli and he gets the space that he want,” Cronk said.
“He only needs half a metre to use his speed and leg power. That is just a very good try to watch from the Broncos’ right centre.”
“That is a beautiful move and you’re so right about early ball – Niu knows what he’s got on the outside,” Voss added.
Suli finished with 107 running metres, six tackle busts, a linebreak and an offload to go with his try, while Staggs bagged a double, got five tackle busts, three linebreaks and an offload as well as 143 running metres.
REYNOLDS STILL ‘UNDER THE WEATHER’ AS DRAGONS TRY TO FOLLOW COWBOYS’ LEAD
The Dragons took a leaf out of the Cowboys’ playbook in heaping the pressure on Broncos halfback Adam Reynolds — except they took it a step too far.
Tariq Sims was sin-binned in the opening two minutes for a late shot on Reynolds and not long after Andrew McCullough was penalised for a high shot on the chief playmaker too.
It was far from ideal for Reynolds, who Corey Parker believes is still “well under the weather” since returning last week from a rib injury.
Braith Anasta said the Dragons “were all over Reynolds” in the first half and Michael Ennis believes they got that game plan from the Cowboys — but “overcooked” it a bit.
“He’s coming back from that rib injury and the Dragons have gone into that game to test him,” Ennis said.
“We saw how relentless and ruthless the Cowboys were in putting him under pressure last week with great success and we’ve seen it already.
“The Dragons just skating a fine line, they’ve overcooked it a little bit it’s cost them but they need to keep pressure on Reynolds.”
Reynolds didn’t take a single run in the game but became move involved in the second half.
He told The Matty Johns Show after the game that he needed a needle before the game.
BRONCOS YOUNG GUN STUNS IN RETURN
An injury to Te Maire Martin saw Tesi Niu rushed back into first grade after hamstring surgery and the young fullback completely exceeded expectations.
Niu made a modest return to the field via reserve grade last week after missing more than two months of footy. He played just the first half in the centres as part of his return to play schedule.
But when Martin got injured, Broncos coach Kevin Walters was forced to fast-track that schedule.
He could have been excused for having a quiet game, but instead Niu was one of the best players on the field.
The 20-year-old scored a try in the first half after darting out of dummy-half and then threw a cutout pass in the lead up to Kotoni Staggs’ second try.
“He’s been everywhere,” Fox League commentator Andrew Voss said.
“He was very good earlier in the season and now returning to first grade and he’s been the dominant playmaker for Brisbane.”
Brian Fletch was equally impressed buy Niu.
“Goodness me, for a kid that’s been out of first grade for a while he just slotted straight back in,” he said on The Matty Johns Show.
Niu finished with a try, two try assists, eight tackle busts, two linebreaks, four linebreak assists, an offload and 154 running metres.
Broncos: 1. Tesi Niu 18. Delouise Hoeter 3. Kotoni Staggs 4. Brenko Lee 5. Jordan Pereira 6. Ezra Mam 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Keenan Palasia 9. Billy Walters 10. Ryan James 11. Zac Hosking 12. Jordan Riki 13. Kobe Hetherington 14. Cory Paix 15. Rhys Kennedy 16. Xavier Willison 17. Tyson Gamble. Replacement player: 20. Deine Mariner
Dragons: 1. Cody Ramsey 2. Mathew Feagai 3. Moses Suli 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Talatau Amone 7. Jayden Sullivan 15. Francis Molo 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Blake Lawrie 11. Jack Bird 12. Jaydn Su’A 13. Tariq Sims 8. Jack de Belin 14. Moses Mbye 18. Jaiyden Hunt 20. Josh Kerr. Replacement player: 19. Tautau Moga
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