The Brisbane Broncos returned to form on Saturday night with a comfortable 30-10 win over a South Sydney Rabbitohs side missing stars Greg Inglis and Adam Reynolds. Corey Oates bagged a double for the victors, while James Roberts wowed the 13,111 fans in attendance with the sort of speed that we’re likely to see in Rio next month.
Broncos overcome changes to get the job done
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett praised his side for overcoming a mass reshuffle from the squad of 17 that was originally named on Tuesday.
Corey Parker (suspension) and Matt Gillett (injury) both missed Saturday night's game, with Lachlan Maranta and Jai Arrow replacing them in a rejigged squad that saw Alex Glenn switch to the back row.
Jordan Kahu was initially named on the wing, but started at centre, but was forced from the field after 25 minutes in his first game back from injury, resulting in Glenn having to finish the game in the backs.
"He aggravated his pec. I'm not sure how bad it is. It's probably no worse than when he did it last time," Bennett said when asked about the Kahu injury.
"We had a number of players out for different reasons. The team that was picked earlier in the week didn't resemble the team that took the field tonight, and after 20 minutes it had to change again.
"I thought they were good tonight. They weren't brilliant, but I didn't expect that coming off a couple of weeks of losses. We just wanted to get back and start competing again and doing the little things better than they did."
Adam Reynolds's injury not expected to be serious
If the Rabbitohs were to have any chance of beating the Broncos, they needed star halfback Adam Reynolds to steer the ship.
Unfortunately for the Bunnies, the 2014 premiership-winning playmaker was a late withdrawal after picking up a minor injury in the warm-up.
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire hopes Reynolds will be right to take on the Sea Eagles next week in what's shaping as a do-or-die scenario for Souths.
"Just prior to the warm up he was doing a bit of kicking and strained his quad so he wasn't able to get out and join us tonight," Maguire said.
"We're facing a few different bits of adversity but I'm finding through this adversity that I'm growing a lot of character in individuals.
"My leaders are really starting to show some real strength around what they're doing, and we need to keep doing that. You can see that they're really determined to make sure that we're turning around what we're doing."
Boyd revels as stand-in-skipper
He's won premierships, State of Origin series and a World Cup, but on Saturday Darius Boyd added Broncos captain to his ever-growing CV.
Set to turn 29 mere hours after the full-time whistle, the Maroons fullback received an early birthday present by being handed the captaincy for the first time at the Broncos.
It was an incredible achievement given teammates such as Alex Glenn, Sam Thaiday and Adam Blair have had the "C" next to their names in years gone by, and Boyd didn't disappoint, setting up three tries.
With Corey Parker set to retire at the end of the year, Broncos coach Wayne Bennett admitted Boyd was one of the candidates in line to replace the current skipper.
For Boyd, leading his club was an honour that he was privileged to receive.
"Obviously [it's] a proud moment captaining a great club and famous club," he said.
"Wayne told me today pretty much, so I just wanted to do a good job and lead the boys the best way I could and lead with my actions. I was pretty happy with the way I played, so that's all I can do."
Positive signs for Rabbitohs rookie
In a well-beaten side, one of the few shining lights for the Bunnies was the NRL debut of Angus Crichton.
The 20-year-old has risen through the ranks at South Sydney after originally making a name for himself in rugby union.
Having featured in South Sydney's 2015 Auckland Nines-winning squad, Crichton has continued his impressive form in the Holden Cup and the NSW Cup.
Many people felt he was ready to make his NRL debut at the start of the year, but a spate of injuries forced him to bide his time before he finally got his shot against the Broncos.
Crichton made the most of his opportunity, running for 121 metres and making 21 tackles in just 33 minutes off the bench.
Maguire said he was proud of Crichton given everything he's been through.
"A lot of people probably don't really know the journey of Angus Crichton to get to that first game," the Rabbitohs coach said.
"He's had a lot of injuries and he's been here for around 18 months, but he just hasn't been able to get his body right.
"To see a young man like that is pretty special as a coach to see him go out and perform the way he did. I think he's going to be a great addition to us moving forward."
James Roberts wouldn't look out of place at the Olympics
The NRL is blessed with some amazing athletes, but few can get the crowd going like James Roberts in full flight.
The Broncos centre burnt his junior club with a typically spectacular bit of individual brilliance to fend away from would-be defenders with strength, before putting the foot down to streak away and score.
Broncos winger Lachlan Maranta said he felt blessed to have Roberts on his inside.
"Playing outside him, it's obviously going to make me look a bit better and that's what you need," Maranta told NRL.com.
"Sometimes he's so unpredictable because you don't know whether he's going to beat his man, but half the time he does because he's got that pure speed that you can't coach."
Fullback Darius Boyd said the plan was simple; just give Roberts early ball.
"James is a quality player and I try to get him the ball as quickly as I can because he's got so much speed," Boyd said.
"I know the outside guys in the opposition really worry about him and you saw that with one of those tries he scored tonight was pretty special. I don't think many guys with that kind of speed could score that try."