NRL 2023: Brisbane Broncos win 13-12 over Penrith Panthers, Adam Reynolds masterclass

It’s been a long time before Adam Reynolds finally gets his revenge for losing the 2021 Grand Finals as the Broncos stunned the Panthers on their own turf.

No Reece flash. No problem.

The Broncos overcame the pregame loss of star recruit Reece Walsh and sent shockwaves through the NRL competition with a monstrous 13-12 boilover from two-time Premier Penrith in an epic season opener at BlueBet Stadium.

With Walsh (cheekbone) out, the Broncos put aside the glamor in greasy conditions and defended like demons to stun the top dogs and celebrate one of the finest wins in the club’s 35-year history.

The pain of last season’s Top-8 collapse was beautifully buried by a brave performance that opened Brisbane’s season in style and was the first strong sign that the Broncos are set for the 2023 Finals.

Trailing 6-0 early on, the Broncos flexed their muscles to thrash the Panthers and held the champions tryless for 69 minutes as a Herbie Farnworth brace sealed Brisbane’s first win at Penrith in 14 years.

The Broncos led 12-6 at halftime, and while showing up at home when halfback Adam Reynolds scored a field goal for a 13-6 nine minutes from time, the visitors had to fend off a barnstorming finish from Penrith.

It was hard. It was desperate. It was the kind of triumph that builds Premiership wins.


Brisbane’s mental fragility on defense cost them a place in the finals last season. Coach Kevin Walters promised his side would get muscular off the ball this season.

Apparently they have.

The Broncos’ defense was great. They only missed six tackles in the first 40 minutes and fended off one wave of attacks after another. The scoring prowess of the league’s top team was nullified by a Brisbane side that displayed superior line speed and thrived on the defensive hunger of Pat Carrigan and Jordan Riki, who made 90 tackles combined.

Prop Payne Haas (171 yards and 27 tackles) was heroic up front while Cory Paix, Brisbane’s energizer bunny, was powerful rake Cory Paix.

No titles will be won in March but if Brisbane keep up the defence, they will have finals in September.


Boom Broncos flyer Selwyn Cobbo has much to learn to become Brisbane’s No. 1 defender.

In the absence of the injured Walsh, Cobbo displayed some typically fearless attacks, charging 176 yards, but his courage in the backcourt was tarnished by two runs where he was thrown into contact on a wet and slippery night.


In Brisbane, Walsh will not only fill in at full-back; They also own a Scrumbase livewire in Ezra Mam, who made his first hot statement of 2023 when he ripped the Premiers apart in the 20th minute.

The 20-year-old stormed through the line and produced a clever, instinctive kick for Farnworth, whose second attempt gave the visitors a 12-6 lead.

Mam, Brisbane’s 2022 Rookie of the Year, has the footwork to unlock any team at any time. To complete a good first start, Mam was brave on defense.


Farnworth is a class act. His move to the Dolphins next season is a major blow to the Broncos and the evidence was palpable in Penrith as he terrorized the Premiers on Brisbane’s left fringe.

The British Test star ran an excellent line in the 16th minute to get through and his second attempt – refusing to resign and passing Brian To’o to win the race to Mams Kick – was a sublime snapshot of the desperation that Penrith’s spirit broke.


Matt Cleary

If the shock defeat to St Helens at the World Club Challenge wasn’t enough, Penrith Panthers fans were given another reality check after the Premiers went down in a 13-12 thriller against Brisbane Broncos at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.

While they scored a genuine contender for the title of the year in front of a nearly sold-out crowd of 17,125, it seemed clear that life without the tenacious Viliame Kikau and the artful ruck-dodger Api Koroisau means a Panthers premiership three-point goes far will be removed from a cake stand.

Not that it would ever be, of course. And we’re less than half a round into season ’23. And the Broncos played an inspired, physical and controlled rugby league in wet conditions.

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary agreed his team was disjointed, although they also played some good footballers.

“So, a bit of early-season rust. The team is different too, especially with the dummy half. Short preseason. We played both games, the weather was bad. It all adds up.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do there, but I’m sure we’ll make it,” Cleary said.

On the Panthers’ left fringe, where Luke Garner was in the big Kikau shoes, Cleary said his Wests Tigers recruit would take a while to adjust to his teammates — and vice versa.

“It was definitely an improvement on the last game. [But] Garns will take a while to get used to how we play and the intensity with which we play. There’s definitely some steps there,” Cleary said, adding that the game was ending and he didn’t think the team lost friends in the effort.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters said the Broncos’ defensive performance was the best in his three years at the club. And that it wasn’t a fuss.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise but it was a really good win for us to start our year.

“Penrith, they’ve been a great team for a long time and everyone is chasing them. St Helen’s, we.

“So it was a close game and we were lucky to be up front. Wasn’t much in it. We don’t get carried away. Get the win. Carry on with next week,” Walters said.

Asked about his side’s desperate defence, Walters said it was one of the things the club hoped to get better at.

“There were a few more tries that we could have avoided. But overall it was very good there. Especially our try-line defense.

“I haven’t seen a Broncos team defend like this since … it’s the best defense since I’ve been back at the club in the last three years,” Walters said.

A stunning seventh-minute effort by Stephen Crichton was wiped out by two fine attempts by Herbie Farnworth – both from Crichton’s defensive errors – and the Broncos went 12-6 at the break.

The second half was mostly if not all Penrith. Again and again they threw bodies and cultivators onto the Brisbane line, only thwarted by the desperate, teeming Broncos defense.

Jarome Luai was stopped just inches from the try line. Panthers reserve rake Soni Luke would not be denied, his attempt to play three minutes set up a ding-dong finish.

When backup defender Selwyn Cobbo parried a 45-yard clear-field goal attempt in his in-goal and lost the ball in a tackle, with the ball sloshing past his line, Penrith fans thought they had escaped Alcatraz. Nevertheless, there was a penalty. And valuable two points after Brisbane followed shortly thereafter.

Originally published as NRL 2023: Brisbane Broncos win 13-12 over Penrith Panthers, Adam Reynolds Masterclass NRL 2023: Brisbane Broncos win 13-12 over Penrith Panthers, Adam Reynolds masterclass

Ryan Sederquist

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