Broncos boil over stuns Panthers, Knights new backbone chunky while Webster’s Warriors take the win

The Premiership defense shouldn’t start like this. When St. Helens broke the aura around Penrith Stadium, the Broncos smashed straight through with a brave, committed 13-12 win inspired by two tries from Herbie Farnworth and a whole bunch of superb tackles.

History will inevitably turn to the Panthers and their defeat, but Brisbane were excellent and fought for every inch of their victory.

With about half an hour left, Fox League commentary Michael Ennis speculated that they might not hold out and win by 12 points.

He was right and they needed Adam Reynolds’ late field goal to put themselves a big enough lead, but the broader point was also true. 13 points shouldn’t be enough to win at Bluebet Stadium, but it was.

The Panthers were far from their best, but that was because Brisbane’s defensive organization made them look bad.

Broncos defy the trends

When the Broncos were good last year, it was based on their ability to convert leads into wins even when the other side threw everything at them.

No team has been efficient enough to turn games they’ve lost on almost every metric into actual wins. On several occasions they took the lead and held on through the power of defense, just like tonight. They lost the yardage count, possession count and territory but held on to victory.

Their mess was excellent and by keeping Penrith so quiet tonight they proved that the willingness to fight back is still there. Making it past 27 rounds might be the bigger question, but anyone who has doubted his ability to perform for his coach should have no doubts now.

It was a combination of clever tactics – taking down the left panther, more on that later – but also sheer application and, when the time came, execution. Brisbane created two chances and scored both, then parried several attacks when Penrith would have thought they were in.

Where was the left fringe of the Panthers?

Penrith’s deadly left edge already looks jaded by the absence of Viliame Kikau. It goes without saying that he has big shoes to fill, but the loss of him and the injured Taylan May has also robbed the Panthers of one of their greatest weapons.

Luke Garner was solid if unspectacular and while he may have been training long term, Kikau was both solid And often spectacular. These things take time. Sunia Turuva is the same, a potentially great player but one in the same boat as May as a relative newcomer last year.

Where teams once acted out of fear of the left fringes, Brisbane targeted them and proved very successful in shutting down. There was some preseason rust, but that was made worse by the Broncos’ line speed and ability to stop the flow. Aside from a fluid movement to the right in the first half, Penrith proved unable to create anything.

Jarome Luai in particular struggled with the constant attention of Kotoni Staggs, who clearly thought jamming on the five quavers could make hay. Luai was worth six runs in the 40m at half-time, showing how quickly he was shut down.

Herbie freaks out

Herbie Farnworth was excellent last year and still kind of flew under the radar. His bicep injury mid-season ended his campaign with 12 tries from 14 games, a stunning return from a center he backed up with superb performances at the World Cup for England.

It was clear to everyone that Farnworth had all the physical qualities that were needed, but there were also shortcomings, particularly on defence. That seemed largely resolved last year prior to his injury and without that question mark all of his best instincts came out.

There’s the pace and the strength, but also the cunning and an intangible talent to be in the right place to score.

His first tonight was the former, firing back against the line, and his second was the latter, a desire to get the footy and score the try. Expect big things from Herbie this year.

Where was Soni Luke?

The dynamic late last year worked perfectly: Mitch Kenny started the game, taking all penalties and paving the way for Api Koroisau to dominate from around the 20th minute.

Many expected Ivan Cleary to continue the same trend with new staff: the spirited Soni Luke came where Koroisau would offer huge attacking potential. But as the clock ticked, the Tongan international was nowhere to be seen.

Kenny is a perfectly viable 9, but his talents generally lie more in the honest worker mode that the Broncos are more than capable of handling.

It wasn’t until the 55th minute that he came into play and his shot was instant with a sharp dart that caused panic in the defence. His attempt late in the game had taken a long time before he actually made it. One wonders why it wasn’t featured earlier.

New Zealand Warriors 20-12 Newcastle Knights

By Danielle Smith

With both teams trying to put a very disappointing 2022 season behind them, it was the New Zealand Warriors who started 2023 on the right foot with a solid 20-12 win over the Newcastle Knights on Friday night in Wellington.

While the Knights got off to a perfect start with forward Lachlan Fitzgibbon’s goal in the first minute, it was the Warriors who slowly built momentum to fight on and win the arm wrestling. The Knights lost Tyson Frizell to a failed HIA and the tide slowly began to turn. A 10-6 deficit at the break was a flattering result for the visitors, who struggled for most of the game.

In the second half, the Warriors increased the tempo and were clearly the better team for 80 minutes. Holding on to a 14-12 lead and desperately defending after the clock ran out proved the difference as the Knights tried their best to regain the lead but continued to come up empty. Eight consecutive sets of six resulted in zero points.

A late try by Wayde Egan gave the Warriors an eight-point lead and eventually the game. It was a bold start to the season for Warriors who showed promise. However, it could be a long season for their opponents.

Ponga at six not an instant fix but spine should be fine

Ponga’s move at half-time was one of the most anticipated aspects of the 2023 season and as long as it existed some positive signs for the Knights from their latest five-eighth, the move won’t bring the desired results immediately.

There were some good moments for Ponga, who became more comfortable on the front line as the game progressed. The independent doctor saw him leave the game with 11 minutes to go, leaving him unable to finish the game on his terms.

His new half-partner Jackson Hastings looked like he had all the time in the world to make decisions and throw in kicks, and hooker Jayden Brailey made the most tackles for his side at 48, and full-back Lachlan Miller ran the most at 174 and both Meters were full of trouble.

It won’t happen overnight, but it should happen.

The Warriors bought very well

There’s been a lot of talk about the new recruits for the Warriors. Mitch Barnett was solid against his old side, Dylan Walker showed what a valuable and versatile player he is and Marata Niukore was as tough as ever.

While everyone played their part tonight, two were absolutely outstanding.

Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was one of the best players on the field and the new Warriors full-back proved he still has it. Confident under high ball, quick on his feet, scoring one goal, making two tackle breaks, running 190 yards along with two big defensive plays, his experience on the defensive was undeniable and so much needed after Reece Walsh’s departure.

Then there was Jackson Ford. How could the Red V not find a place for him? The backrower made a great debut for his new club, playing the full 80 minutes and finishing with 149 yards, three tackle breaks and 25 tackles.

The Knights need Young for the year

With the star winger turning rooster in 2024, there has been much talk of whether the Knights will release him early, with some frustrating fans wanting him left out of the side.

But with what the Knights have produced, they can’t afford to leave him early or play in the lower tiers. They need as much help as they can get, and the effort and tenacity he puts in each week, they need him for as long as they can keep him.

Johnson’s lack of consistency could hurt the Warriors

It looked like there would be more of that from the Warriors’ number seven this year, the game started very disinterested and produced poor kicking play, including just one yard when he kicked in after a penalty after his side followed kicked a penalty.

Then, on the fly, he would pause and create opportunities.

In the end, it was a mixed bag from Johnson for the rest of the game, which can prove the difference between the teams in the top eight and those in the bottom eight. Consistency from your halfback is a must.

It’s a shame Luke Metcalfe will be out for so long this season.

Tohu Harris is a machine

What an absolute monster of a player this guy is.

Another big boy on the field for the entire game. 51 tackles, 33 of them in the first half, along with 15 goals.

Leading from the front, he was the inspirational leader his side needed. If he keeps this up, who knows where the warriors will end up. Broncos boil over stuns Panthers, Knights new backbone chunky while Webster's Warriors take the win

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