Reigning Premiers Cronulla Sharks couldn’t get off to a winning start, as Brisbane Broncos came out on top in the opening fixture of the 2017 NRL season.

THE FOOTY IS BACK

How good is it to have the NRL back for yet another season? And what a mouth-watering clash to get us underway, as the reigning premiers Cronulla Sharks welcomed Brisbane Broncos to Southern Cross Group Stadium.

It wasn’t the ideal start to their title defence though, as the Broncos came away with the first win of the season, surviving a second-half comeback to post a 26-18 victory.

The game started with Adam Blair being forced back into his own in-goal straight from the kick-off, but the Sharks couldn’t take advantage as soon after Jordan Kahu opened the scoring. They threatened to force their way ahead in the second period, however Anthony Milford killed off their hopes of a victory late on.

MISSING MEN

The Premiers were missing some influential men and it told, as Valentine Holmes didn’t feature and they were desperate for the spark he provides in attack. They matched their opponents in the middle, with Wade Graham rocking Alex Glenn with a huge hit in the first half.

With Michael Ennis retiring a champion, there was a void left at number nine in the Sharks side too, as Jayden Brailey was left with big shoes (and a big skull cap) to fill. Credit to the Cronulla youngster though as he put in a solid performance at hooker making 39 tackles, with only Luke Lewis (41) and Andrew McCullough (51) making more. Even though Brailey was impressive they missed the leadership of their 2016 captain.

DARIUS IS NUMBER ONE

Darius Boyd was influential in attack, as he normally is for the Broncos, as the fullback came up with two try assists. Firstly, he sent Kahu over for the opener with a brilliant cut-out pass, although the wide man still had work to do to score.

Then he set Corey Oates free on the left edge, before the speedster dove over in trademark fashion to score one-handed over the top of his opposite number. Boyd is a huge threat in any three-on-two play when he chimes into the attacking line, and he showed that a number of times in this encounter.

COR BLIMEY

Finishing with 156 metres from 15 runs is an impressive effort for any forward, however these stats came from the Broncos’ left edge and not their middle. Corey Oates put in a brilliant display in which he made more metres than any Sharks players, and only Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire ran further with the ball in hand.

He has quickly become one of the most dangerous wingers in the game, but performances like today’s beg the question, can he do a job in the back-row? He certainly has the size and strength, but as long as he continues scoring tries out wide Wayne Bennett will be happy with Oates staying on the wing.

SCOREBOARD

Cronulla Sharks 18 (6): Beale, Feki, Bird, Leutele, Lee, Maloney, Townsend, Prior, Brailey, Fifita, Lewis, Graham, Gallen Subs: Bukuya, Heighington, Tagataese, Brown

Tries: Beale (11), Maloney (50), Leutele (59) Goals: Maloney 3/3

Brisbane Broncos 26 (14): Boyd, Oates, Roberts, Moga, Kahu, Milford, Hunt, Blair, McCullough, Sims, Thaiday, Gillett, McGuire Subs: Glenn, Pangai Junior, Ese’ese, Arrow

Tries: Kahu (5), Roberts (31), Oates (46), Milford (69) Goals: Kahu 5/5

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My name is Sean Hayes. I am from Widnes, England. I am currently studying journalism at Salford University. Aspiring sports journalist and rugby league fanatic whether it is watching, playing or writing about the greatest game! Follow me on twitter @SHayesNBL