ROUND 10: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles v. Brisbane Broncos (Suncorp Stadium, 13/5/22, 0-38)

With Adam Reynolds at the helm, the Broncos have not only rediscovered their greatness, but the greatness of their own heritage. If Reyno showed South Sydney what they’d lost last week, then tonight’s game against the Sea Eagles proved that he can become every bit as iconic at Brisbane as he was at the Bunnies. At every moment, at every point of the park, and from every angle with the boot, he had consummate control, even channelling Alfie Langer with a sublime old-school chip-and-chase on the cusp of half time.

On the other side of the Steeden, Manly didn’t score a single point, and failed to activate any of their major playmakers – especially Turbo, who appeared to be playing through serious injury by the time the final siren sounded. On paper it was 7th against 8th, but for the first time in years Brisbane felt like the kings of Suncorp during Magic Round, with Corey Oates putting down a double and Selwyn Cobbo delivering a watershed game (and a serious prospect for Billy Slater’s Maroons) with a hat trick that ended with an end-to-end try.

Reynolds got the game rolling with a bang, sending the kickoff straight between Turbo and Foran to get his men a full set in the Manly ten. The Broncos struggled a little on their right edge attack, but it didn’t matter, since Reyno ended as clinically as he began, chipping to the right corner, where Selwyn Cobbo easily outplayed Reuben Garrick to take the footy on the full and slam down Brisbane’s first try ninety seconds into the game.

Reyno was always going to convert, bending the ball back at the last moment to make it two points per minute as the “away” crowd went wild. Billy Walters hit halfway towards the end of the restart, getting the little general in place to kick from the forty. Garrick took it on the full, and the Sea Eagles had their first touch of the footy, four minutes in, despite winning the coin toss, but struggled to make metres, only getting Daly Cherry-Evans just over the thirty by the time he took his first boot of the evening.

Meanwhile, Brisbane won the first penalty of the game, a slow peel from Sean Keppie, at the start of the next count, getting them another set in Manly territory. Corey Jensen was at the red zone by play three, and the Broncos shifted into their second great sweep to the right, although this time the Sea Eagles were in place to close up room for Cobbo along the sideline. Yet once again the “hosts” struggled to make metres, as Turbo tried and failed to make space for brother Ben up the left, and Foran was forced to kick it from just inside his forty.

He did well with the length, forcing Brisbane to work it out of their own end, but another good run from Jensen on tackle four meant Walters was back in Manly territory by the time he garnered the first restart of the night from a Jurbo offside. Reyno lobbed a beauty of a cut-out pass to Corey Oates, and while the Sea Eagles cleaned it up, his vision created enough flow for Kurt Capewell to smash over a play later, when he slammed through a low shot from Tolu Koula and got the Steeden to ground.

In the end, he didn’t put it down soon enough, and had to rely on a second effort to roll it onto the chalk, but this whole sequence was still a massive momentum-builder for Brisbane, who felt primed to score next time they hit Manly’s line. Now it was the Sea Eagles’ turn to work it back from their own ten, and again DCE didn’t reach the forty by the time he took the kick, while a big Payne Haas charge on tackle two meant the Broncs were back in Manly territory without any drama, as Reyno aimed his next one at the right corner.

Turbo took it on the full, but still didn’t notch up the run metres, while his men only made fifteen metres off the first four plays, unable to contend with a Brisbane outfit that now had 68% of possession. Manly needed a big defensive gesture, and Lachlan Croker provided it, slamming into Cobbo as Keppie came in for back-up, but even then the Broncos were relatively unfazed, as Reyno sent an even bigger one to the right corner, and Garrick reached his boot right back to the chalk to take it on the full.

This was the first prodigious individual play from Manly, and the twenty metre restart got them their first foray into Brisbane territory, where Ethan Bullemor threatened to break through the line with some deft footwork. They made the most of their opportunity, however, as Foran toed a mercurial chip from the left corner, Turbo beat Te Maire Martin to take it on the full, and looked set for all money to ground it through Walters, who hit back with a heroic trysaver to force the footy free as Capewell surged in to offer his support.

DCE ground it further back in goal, but the replay confirmed that Turbo had already knocked on, while Reynolds’ next boot to the right paid dividends. Staggs got to it first, and made contact with the thumb, before it rolled down for Garrick, who landed on his back, tried to contain it, and knocked on. For a moment, he seemed on the verge of a challenge, which he would have won, but the Sea Eagles opted to cop it, and then had to weather another set in their ten when Martin tempted a ruck error late in the count.

For the first time, Reyno’s boot didn’t come good, as he hesitated on the right edge, sized up his running opportunities, and ended up with a half-baked chip that Foran took on the full. Manly had no tackles in the opposition twenty (to Brisbane’s fourteen) and they didn’t get any joy on this set either, although Martin was forced back to his ten to collect the kick, while Walters couldn’t get the offload away on tackle three, and Carrigan followed with a shocker of a dummy half pass that Jensen was never going to take clean.

This was Manly’s first big chance, and DCE tried to capitalise with a chip on the third, just after his men had hit the red zone, but Capewell read it perfectly, sticking out a boot to deflect it back to Koula, who wasn’t prepared to contain the ricochet. Carrigan now started making up for his poor pass with a tough run on tackle three, Gamble earned a restart midway through the count by catching DCE offside in the ten, and Walters forced a dropout as the second quarter got rolling, while Jurbo was lucky not to get a binned for an escort along the way.

The Broncos were now sitting at 66% possession (and rising), while the Sea Eagles were starting to tire after so much defence, so it was a big boost when Dylan Walker made an immediate impact off the bench, combining with Jurbo for a massive tackle early in the restart. As a result, Brisbane didn’t make much headway, and while Reyno booted it all the way to the Manly twenty, the Sea Eagles finally got the rub of the green when a second effort from Tyson Gamble bumped them back into Broncos territory.

They still hadn’t played the ball inside the Brisbane twenty, so this felt like it might be the critical set – until Foran put it down early in the count. Reyno scooped it off his bootlaces and the Broncs were back on the attack, as the Manly defensive line decelerated, Reynolds grubbered, and the chase put enough pressure on Turbo for the Sea Eagles to start their next set three metres out from their line. The boys from Brooky were under duress, and couldn’t have asked for a better time to receive a high contact penalty from Haas.

Taupau got them rolling on tackle one, breaking his way up the middle and hitting the twenty for the first time, only for Foran to lose twenty metres with a wayward pass that Garrick was only just able to clean up on the sideline on tackle four. DCE ended by booting it to the right corner, but it was far too deep, so Oates took it cleanly on the full, without a care in the world, and the Broncos had seven tackles to play with. Yet it was also Oates who lost the footy, a few plays later, after the “away” team let some escalating second phase play overtake them.

With a scrum at their forty, the Sea Eagles had to capitalise here, so it wasn’t a good sign when Herbie Farnworth stopped Koula in his tracks on tackle one. Staggs did the same on Burbo, the only Manly player in the VB Hard Earned Index, and the “hosts” had to rely on another DCE chip to the right – and then another, when Brisbane failed to secure the first one. This time Oates was in place for a second clean collect, while Tom Flegler wisely chose to rein in a risky offload after the way the second phase had fallen apart on their last set.

In a play that summarised Brisbane’s brute strength over the last thirty minutes, Reyno chipped to the right, and then joined Jordan Riki to drag Garrick over the sideline after he collected it (off a bounce) seven metres in field. The Broncos had a full set in the Manly ten, and swept right immediately, where Riki compounded his great defensive read with a strong attacking run, before Kobe Hetherington took a massive shot from Haumole Olakau’atu, but got up quick enough to keep the play rolling out to the left.

The sheer poetry of this sequence dictated that Capewell should have scored here, and he worked hard enough for it, receiving the footy and trampling over a last-ditch DCE low tackle to plant the Steeden down. While the refs called it forward, it looked flat from the air, but the Broncos had to wear it, and prevent this turning into a momentum-shifter for Manly. There wasn’t much chance of that by the end of the set, since again DCE didn’t break his forty by the time he put boot to ball, while Turbo was starting to look worse for wear in backplay.

Manly got a let-off when the footy was stripped from Carrigan with three in the tackle, and DCE put Turbo in the twenty with a well-timed pass, while the Sea Eagles got the first dropout since their disastrous opening, with four minutes until halftime. Reyno sent it to the left sideline, Koula did brilliantly to collect it on the cusp of touch, and Gamble promptly stole it back the second that Farnworth and Capewell pulled out of the three-man tackle. It was the pinnacle of Brisbane’s first stanza, and it ended as it had to – with a Reynolds try.

It was Reyno’s most prodigious short-range play since arriving at Suncorp. First, he chipped from the twenty, then he ducked around the defence to take it on the bounce, before a mercurial dummy got him past Turbo for a try that had shades of Alfie Langer. As the Brisbane faithful went wild, it was suddenly easy to see how Reynolds might become every bit as iconic to the Broncos as he has been to South Sydney. Of course, he added the extras, slicing it through from the sideline to make it fourteen unanswered points as we hit half time.

Reyno actually tried to add a two point field goal as icing on the cake, but he missed, although it didn’t seem to empower Manly any when they returned from the sheds, as a Taupau error set up Oates to break through the line and make his way to the corner, where Christian Tuipulotu came up with an epic trysaver to prevent Brisbane getting on the board. In any other game, this would have been a tide-turner, but the Broncs got the ball back almost immediately, off a Bullemor putdown, and Reyno wasted no time adding more magic.

Again, his right boot got the goods, as he chipped from the twenty, catching Garrick and Burbo back in field, and relying on Turbo’s inability to accelerate to his normal speed, as the Steeden hit Cobbo straight on the chest for a four-pointer that felt like a full stop on the game, even though we had another thirty-five minutes of football to go. He capped it off with another bendy sideline kick to bring Brisbane to twenty points, while the goal had shifted for the Sea Eagles, who just had to score a few to hold their heads high as they prepare for Parra.

They got a rare shot when Riki lost the footy on the kickoff, and denied his men the restart, and for a moment Olakau’atu looked set to make good on tackle one, barging his way at the line from ten metres out, only for the Brisbane defence to lock into formation at the last moment. Turbo took a run in the same spot, three plays later, but without any support it looked more like a backrower taking a hit-up, while Cobbo hit the stratosphere by intercepting a Walker loft on the short side, and running the full field for the try of his life.

In doing so, he became equal highest tryscorer of 2022, alongside Oates, Jahrome Hughes and Jeremiah Nanai, but this putdown was about more than the stats – it was yet another watershed moment in a Brisbane outfit that are going through a spiritual rebirth before our eyes, recovering the brilliance of days gone by, and cementing into one of the great top eight contenders in years to come. Cobbo’s team mates knew it too, chasing him down for one of the best celebrations this year, before Reyno booted through another two to make it 26-0.

The meteorologists had promised a rain bomb all week, and it hit just as Staggs slammed Turbo to ground beneath the high ball, like an elemental weather event himself. As quickly as it started, the rain eased off, as if it was a mere side effect of the Brisbane defence, as Reynolds hoisted it high, and Turbo was able to take it without much of a chase, albeit only reaching his twenty by the time he rolled it back. Sure enough, the deluge resumed as the Broncos surged in to contain every Manly hit-up.

By this stage, Manly were well and truly under the gun – struggling to make metres, struggling to organise their sets, and struggling to activate their best playmakers. On the other side of the Steeden, Brisbane got their next bump off a slow peel from Andrew Davey, while Carrigan got a well-earned rest off a mammoth night – 130 run metres in 15 carries in the first half alone – as Haas added some fresh blood off the bench, taking control immediately by busting through a tackle and then giving Olakau’atu a real challenge on play two.

Yet in a move against the run of play, Davey got some joy by forcing an error from Payne, giving Manly a chance to shift the rhythm if one of their big names could step up now. Turbo got them rolling with a forward ball (that went unnoticed) out to DCE, who followed with his strongest run of the night, dodging and weaving his way through a series of incipient tackles to rack up twenty metres and eventually break through on the right. In any other game, this would have been enough for one of the game’s best leaders to plant it down.

Tonight was a different matter, since Haas and Reyno slammed in from across the park to help the left edge hold up Daly right on the chalk, as the Sea Eagles’ best burst since the break dissolved into a run-of-the-mill turnover. Add to that a dangerous shot from Tofa Sipley, who was put on report for his troubles, and the Broncos were in place for their next try, which occurred like clockwork – Reyno out to the left, Farnworth to Oates, and Oates around a last-ditch ankle tap from Tuipulotu as the rain teemed down again over Suncorp.

The spirit of Langer was present in more ways than one tonight, since with this putdown Oates beat Alfie to become the fourth most prolific Brisbane tryscorer (106) after Wendell Sailor (110), Michael Hancock (120), Darren Lockyer (122) and the great Steve Renouf (142). Reyno booted through the two and the Broncs were now at a staggering 32 unanswered points as the final quarter arrived. In the second stanza alone they had 406 to 192 run metres, enough flow to easily survive an illegal strip from Corey Paix and get back on the front foot.

Reyno didn’t quite get the angle for his next kick for Cobbo, and Turbo made a heroic effort to get to the footy in time, despite his intensifying discomfort, although you had to wonder how much longer he could remain on the park. A big Manly pack wasn’t enough to drag Staggs into touch a set later, and while Turbo came up with another gymnastic take at the back of Reyno’s next kick, the little general was in place to hold him up before he could manage any decent acceleration. In every way, Brisbane had control of the park.

The “home” bench were looking pretty glum as Tuipulotu coughed up the footy a play later, while the Manly players on the park seemed utterly burned out by an 864-1429 run metre deficit. The last thing they needed was another Brisbane scrum, while Staggs showed that even a slip could be an asset when he used it to cantilever himself into a second phase rollback on tackle one. History repeated itself when Reyno started a sweep to the left, although this time Koula was in place to shut down Farnworth just when he glimpsed open space.

Foran was just as good on the last, shutting down Martin in the middle of the park, but by this stage it felt like Reyno was in pure play mode, experimenting with all the ways he could sink into this new Brisbane kicking persona. As the last ten minutes arrived, Turbo was limping on one leg, Garrick lost it over the sideline, Jurbo infringed the ruck four plays off the scrum, and the VB Hard Earned Index was all Broncos, with Flegler capping the list on 80, followed by Carrigan (70), Haas (63), Oates (54), Jensen (48) and Staggs (43).  

Reyno only waited one play before grubbering for himself, and might have had a chance at reaching the footy if Keppie hadn’t stuck out a boot to take him off it. Even so, Olakau’atu was forced to ground it in goal, and DCE only got the dropout forty-five metres, while the Brisbane machine regathered seamlessly three plays later, when Gamble took the pressure off Reynolds by completing the left sweep with a subliminal drift out to the wing, before popping a short assist for Oates to ferry the footy back in field for two tries off 225 metres.

Despite DCE launching an arm out, he crossed untouched, booting the footy to the crowd in pure exhilaration before Reyno added another conversion to make it 38 unanswered points. Olakau’atu looked ropeable after leaking the next penalty with a slow peel, and copping some banter from Gamble in the process, in what turned out to be the last great Brisbane attack of the night, starting with Walters handing more than offloading the Steeden to Cobbo out of the opening tackle, as Reyno shifted it from hand to hand before threading the needle.

What happened next was almost a microcosm of the entire game, as Garrick scooped it up, Walters smashed it from his grasp, and Hetherington put it down. Walters’ contact turned out to be the problem, and Manly had the scrum feed, but they didn’t score a point in this last minute. They’ll need to do some serious soul-searching, then, before they take on a Parra outfit hungry for competition points next week, while it’s incredible to think what Reyno can achieve with Brisbane when they rock up to meet the Knights on Thursday.

About Billy Stevenson (739 Articles)
Massive NRL fan, passionate Wests Tigers supporter with a soft spot for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and a big follower of US sports as well.

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