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Brisbane coach Kevin Walters labelled his team mentally and physically “soft” as he refused to blame the NRL’s head contact crackdown and two controversial sin bins for their thumping 50-6 loss to Manly at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.

The Broncos had Tyson Gamble and Jordan Riki sin-binned within 40 seconds of each other in the second half as Brisbane capitulated to their heaviest defeat against Manly with a performance Walters described as their worst in his time at the club.

Sea Eagles fullback Tom Trbojevic finished with two tries, two try assists and 175 running metres as Manly secured their fifth win from their past six games to move into the NRL top eight for the first time this year.

Sea Eagles winger Jason Saab also bagged a double to take his 2021 tally to 10 tries while in the only low moment for Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran sustained a suspected broken hand in the opening minutes.

It was Manly’s best win over the Broncos since their 44-14 triumph in 2015 and consigned the Broncos to their eighth loss of the season as they dropped to 15th on the NRL ladder. 

Manly forward Josh Schuster and hooker Lachlan Croker became the third and fourth players sin-binned in the game – and eighth in two games this round – when both were marched for professional fouls in the final minute of the game.

But as exciting as the Sea Eagles were at times, the talking point will undoubtedly be the NRL’s strict enforcement of head or neck contact in the game which resulted in Brisbane playing 11 against 13, when they conceded 18 points in just five minutes.

Frustrated Walters refuses to blame crackdown for loss

The Broncos were already on the path to defeat when their pair were pointed to the sidelines which was why Walters steadfastly refused to blame referee Gerard Sutton or the sudden edict from the NRL for their demise and rather had his own team firmly in his crosshairs.

“It was a terrible night for Broncos people. I feel sorry for all of our fans and sponsors,” Walters said.

“We started soft and got softer as the game went on.

“Tonight was probably our worst performance since I’ve been here.

“We were all aware of that (new edict), everyone was notified … the referees don’t tick the scoreboard over.

“It will be interesting to see how the rest of the weekend goes.”

Manly coach Des Hasler said the NRL had been clear in their demand to clean up the game but would be interested to see how the new interpretation was enforced for the rest of the season.

Saab engages turbos to set up Tom Trbojevic

“I think there was a warning and edict pretty well sent out. Obviously we’re going to see a bit more of it over the weekend,” Hasler said.

“They’ve made their bed now so we’ve just got to respond to it and get on with it.”

Walters said he would review the game over the weekend before taking an axe to his team – although the NRL match review committee will likely have a huge bearing on his player availability this week with six incidents placed on report.

Riki had already been put on report for unnecessary neck pressure in the first half while Gamble, Matt Lodge and Tevita Pangai jnr all had high tackle incidents put on report for tackles on Brad Parker in the opening 40 minutes.

DCE kicks for a high-flying Saab

By the time Gamble and Riki returned to the field Manly had blown the game apart for a 44-6 lead and the game was over as a competitive contest.

Former Bronco Karmichael Hunt is available for selection next week as part of his train and trial contract and Walters said he may even consider rushing the former rugby and AFL player into his squad to face Sydney Roosters next Saturday.

“We will consider all players on tonight’s performance,” Walters said.

“We will have a look at the review and make some decisions after that. That is part of the reason we brought him back into the group.

“We were a mile away tonight.”

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