Ben Hunt's stint in the Queensland Cup could be short lived, with a potential serious shoulder injury to star five-eighth Anthony Milford overshadowing the Broncos 24-18 win over a gritty South Sydney outfit at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
The Broncos will be sweating on scans tomorrow morning to find out the extent of the injury, which occurred in the 74th minute when the mercurial five-eighth rushed in for a potential intercept but fell awkwardly on his shoulder and had to be assisted from the field in some pain.
Despite a late fightback from the visitors, Brisbane were always seemingly in control against the Rabbitohs and the class of their Origin stars in Matt Gillett and Darius Boyd proved the difference, with the Rabbitohs lacking execution in their attack when they had the ball in their attacking zone.
All the pre-game talk was on coach Wayne Bennett's selection bombshell this week, with the demotion of 2015 Grand Final halfback Ben Hunt for the club's ‘future number 7' Kodi Nikorima. It was Nikorima however, who eerily channeled his predecessor by dropping the ball off the kickoff in an almost identical mistake to Hunt's famous dropped ball in Golden Point from the 2015 decider. The irony…
The Broncos however recovered and opened the scoring for the night for what is now a trademark Broncos try, with skipper Dariius Boyd receiving the ball with some space, drawing in two defenders and hitting winger Corey Oates on the chest for the giant winger to score in the corner. Kahu added the extras and the home side lead 6-0 after 14 minutes.
Brisbane scored their second try of the night four minutes later, when Broncos prop Korbin Sims charged towards the Rabbitohs defence close to the line and got the ball away to Kodi Nikorima who found Queensland backrower Matt Gillett for him to crash over. Kahu made it two from two and extended the lead to 12 points.
The Rabbitohs needed to get on the board and halfback Adam Reynolds provided a pin point cross field kick which was targeted at the Broncos smallest man Nikorima, who could not compete with the reach of Souths centre Bryson Goodwin who took the ball cleanly to get Souths on the board before halftime.
Souths skipper Sam Burgess then got his side back in the match after the break, when the Englishman charged onto a short ball from John Sutton to level the scores three minutes into the second half.
Brisbane looked to have regained the lead in the 51st minute, when Broncos centre Tautau Moga looked to have scored a certain try. The match officials however went to the Bunker for a review, which found Moga had momentarily lost the ball into Souths fullback Cody Walker when he came across in cover and Souths were off the hook.
Anthony Milford then sprung to life, with a superb grubber close to the line, which curved across the in goal to winger Jordan Kahu who scored in the corner. Kahu failed to convert his own try and the lead remained at four points.
The Broncos then looked to have put the game to bed, when Sam Thaiday scored after receiving a superb ball close to the line from Adam Blair. Kahu extended the lead to ten points and the Broncos looked home and hosed.
South Sydney had other ideas however, when their gritty goal line defence again denied Moga another four pointer and then halfback Adam Reynolds, whose kicking game was excellent tonight, again put in a pin point kick which found backrower Angus Critchton who crashed over next to the posts to set up a grandstand finish.
The Bunnies tried their best to turn nothing into something with a short kickoff, but a superb last tackle kick from veteran Benji Marshall forced an in goal dropout with minutes remaining to ice the game for the home side. Reynolds again tried the short drop kick but it fell short and the Broncos were awarded a penalty in front to end the game, with the Broncos winning over a determined Souths by 24-18.
Brisbane now has the bye next week, before they travel to the Nation's Capital in Round 16, where they face the Raiders at Canberra Stadium.
Souths were much improved and will now host the Gold Coast Titans minus their Origin stars Jarryd Hayne, Nathan Peats and possibly Jarrod Wallace at ANZ Stadium next Friday night.