Kevin Walters says Brisbane’s gritty defeat of Canberra rates among the bravest he’s seen as a five-time premiership player at the club, let alone in his two seasons as coach.
An injury-ravaged Broncos held on for a seventh straight NRL win, 24-18 on Saturday, keeping the Raiders scoreless in the second half despite finishing without any fit men on the bench.
It came despite injuries to Payne Haas, Adam Reynolds, Herbie Farnworth and livewire five-eighth Ezra Mam, while Cory Paix (knee), Te Maire Martin (ribs) and Corey Oates (hand) also finished the game with issues.
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Also without rested State of Origin trio Selwyn Cobbo, Kurt Capewell and Kotoni Staggs, Brisbane trailed 18-16 at halftime but edged ahead before scrambling to a famous win.
“Certainly (among the bravest wins), even in my time here as a player and on the staff here,” Walters said.
Reynolds (ribs) didn’t finish the game in his comeback from a groin injury but is hopeful of returning next week to face Melbourne, while Farnworth (bicep) could miss the rest of the season and is in doubt for England’s World Cup charge.
Paix could also miss a chunk if scans reveal an MCL tear suffered in the final play of the game, while Haas had earlier hurt the AC joint in his right shoulder after battling the same issue in his other arm already this season.
It’s hoped his issue isn’t too serious, however it leaves the powerhouse prop carrying niggles in both shoulders ahead of State of Origin II on June 26.
Mam’s exit after a head knock with one minute to play left Brisbane without a man on the bench, but the Raiders coughed up possession immediately to let them off the hook.
Brisbane were 2-4 and trailing Canterbury at halftime in what was effectively a battle to avoid last spot, but have won seven straight for the first time since 2015 to sit inside the top four.
“With this group I could smell from the start of the year and after Christmas that some good things could happen for us,” Walters said.
“They’ve fought back (from 2-4) and I’m really happy with where we are; seven in a row is great but we haven’t really won anything yet.”
Brenko Lee and Jordan Pereira both stepped up in their club debuts and Tom Flegler (168 run metres) was massive alongside relentless Queensland debutant Pat Carrigan (159m, 44 tackles).
Joseph Tapine (209m) and Cory Horsburgh (173m) were explosive for the Raiders while NSW centre Jack Wighton was dangerous in backing up from Wednesday night’s loss but lacked opportunities to find the killer blow.
The Raiders led 18-16 after a tit-for-tat first half, the sides trading tries and highlights.
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart refused to be critical of his side’s inability to land a killer blow, instead lamenting that “they played without a bit of luck”.
“No (I didn’t feel like it was ours for the taking); it doesn’t matter who goes off, (they were) not on the ropes,” he said.
“A couple of silly errors, just trying too hard but we’ve been there before, played games with 11 men.
“Kevin’s building a really good squad here and shown that culture comes before strategy.”