St George Illawarra's million-dollar man Ben Hunt has produced a virtuoso performance to lead his new club to victory against his old club on a night where controversial prop Matt Lodge made a forgettable return to top flight rugby league.
Hunt set up the opening try and scored a brilliant intercept in the 34-12 victory while Lodge – booed every time he touched the ball – produced a number of errors and penalties plus the pass that was intercepted for Hunt's 50-metre try.
He did produce some strong carries in his team-high 137 metres and should be better in the long run.
The Broncos completed at just 50% in the first half and their forwards comfortably lost the battle in the middle against the likes of James Graham, Paul Vaughan, Jack De Belin, Tyson Frizell and Tariq Sims.
The biggest difference between the two teams though was in the halves as Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima each struggled to find anything resembling a dangerous attacking kick while their opposites had the ball on a string for most of the contest.
Though positives were few and far between for the away team, rookie Jamayne Isaako had a fine game on the right wing, creating one of James Roberts' two tries, while Tevita Pangai Junior – promoted to the starting side – was strong and heavily involved.
While the opening was scrappy from both teams, the Dragons improved while the visitors did not, giving up a 10-2 half time lead while completing just eight of their 16 first half possessions.
Match: Dragons v Broncos
Round 1 -
Venue: Jubilee Oval
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
After a mini penalty goal shoot-out put the home side up 4-2 after 17 minutes, a forward pass from Darius Boyd cost Corey Oates the first try of the season.
Cold drops from Lodge and Oates inside their own territory gave the Dragons a heap of attacking ball and it was a beautiful grubber from Hunt that inflicted more pain on his old team as Tyson Frizell won the race to the ball against Anthony Milford just inside the half-hour mark.
A stunning chip back inside to Widdop looked to have extended the Dragons' lead on the stroke of half-time but the skipper was correctly ruled offside.
The Broncos started repairing their horror completion rate in the second half and scored the next try through James Roberts after an uncharacteristic Jason Nightingale drop from a down-field kick.
That was as good as it got for Brisbane with Hunt's 51st-minute intercept followed by a penalty goal for a 12-point buffer, then a powerful Euan Aitken try to make it 24-6 with 20 minutes to play.
Roberts bagged his double courtesy of some soft defence to close the gap to 12 points with just under 15 minutes left but the Broncos continued to produce untimely errors.
When De Belin motored his way up the middle, shrugging through Pangai, Thaidayand Lodge to plant the ball next to the posts, the contest was officially sealed. Nightingale's ungainly grounding off a beautiful Widdop cut-out ball sealed the 34-12 result.