Jordan Riki.
The Broncos have stormed to a crushing 26-0 NRL qualifying final win over Melbourne in Brisbane. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Broncos whip injury-hit Storm to end 14-year hoodoo

Joel Gould September 8, 2023

Brisbane have blitzed Melbourne 26-0 to end a 5285-day losing drought against their NRL arch enemies at Suncorp Stadium and qualify for a home preliminary final in a fortnight.

The loss was a disaster for the Storm. Winger Xavier Coates limped off in the 70th minute and then fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen was taken from the field on a medicab in the 73rd with a broken ankle.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters said before the stunning win that he did not believe in hoodoos. His players showed they were on board, and to a man were far too good for the visitors in front of 50,197 fans.

Brisbane skipper Adam Reynolds produced a masterclass and fullback Reece Walsh turned it on in the second half as only he can.

The Broncos led 8-0 at the break and Walsh, who had been quiet in the opening stanza, put on the afterburners to leave Melbourne defenders in his wake and score. When Walsh found a charging Jordan Riki minutes later it was 20-0. Winger Selwyn Cobbo iced the win with another try.

Brisbane bashed the clunky and clumsy Storm into submission throughout with middle forwards Payne Haas, Thomas Flegler and Pat Carrigan supreme.

“It was a good hard tough footy game, we haven’t won one of those for a long time,” Walters said.

“We’ve been on the end of his (Reynolds) work prior to him coming here. It’s nice to have him in a Broncos jersey.”

Brisbane’s transformation from collective turnstiles in defence in 2020 to brick walls under Walters in 2023 has been astounding.

Three years ago they conceded more than 30 points per game in the regular season. This year it was 17.7 through 24 rounds.

The first half was a ferocious affair. Carrigan and Melbourne hooker Harry Grant, Queensland teammates, wrangled early.

Carrigan walloped Storm lock Josh King. Melbourne monster Tui Kamikamica returned the complement on Brisbane’s Kurt Capewell.

The difference was Reynolds with his sublime kicking. One 51m dropout from under his own sticks found the sideline in driving rain to regain possession for his side.

The veteran half calmed the Broncos and guided them. His defence was next level.

It was a Reynolds pass to powerhouse Brisbane centre Kotoni Staggs that led to the only try of the opening half.

Staggs beat four Storm defenders to score with ease in a blockbusting charge in the eighth minute.

Melbourne centre Young Tonumaipea left the field in the 24th minute with a cut head which opened the door for Papenhuyzen to come on at fullback and Nick Meaney to shift to centre.

Brilliant defence by the Broncos in the corner by Reynolds, Selwyn Cobbo and Billy Walters then denied Storm winger Xavier Coates a try.

If there was any evidence needed that this Brisbane side has a steely resolve without the ball it was that play.

Melbourne will play the winner of the Cronulla-Sydney Roosters elimination final in Melbourne next week.

“It wasn’t a great night anyway and it (injuries) made it a lot worse,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said.

“I don’t know (how we’ll respond) until next week, I suppose.”