That new era kicked off in fine style with a 22-12 victory over the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL season opener on Thursday night at AAMI Park.
After seemingly having the game in their control after leading 16-0 early in the second half after tries to Jahrome Hughes, Curtis Scott and Kenny Bromwich (as well as bombed Felise Kaufusi try), the Broncos came back into the game from a Corey Oates double, the second of which came after he was in the right place to take an errant Jesse Bromwich offload and run it in for the try.
But JBrom would square up the ledger by sliding across the line to restore the ten point halftime lead that would be the final margin.
My key takeaways from the game were
Just joking, I am not going to lie I went to call out “Go Billy” a few times that Jahrome Hughes got the ball. Some habits die hard.
On a night where the southern end was named the Slater stand and with the great man on commentary duty, it would have been easy for his replacement, Hughes, to be overawed.
But instead he reminded us all of his talent and the promise that he showed last year’ leading the team with 218 meters gained and a try in a best afield performance.
There will never be another Billy Slater but this was the best possible start to the attempt to replace him.
This is Munster’s team now
For so long, this has been Cameron’s team. This time however its not Smith, but Munster.
Munster took control of the game right from the get-go. Controlling the game down the left hand side he took on the game, drawing a penalty on the first set that ultimately led to the first try.
Despite wearing the number six jersey he did the majority of the playmaking. It’s going to be a big year for Munster and it couldn’t have gotten off to a better start.
But the old master has still got it
Cameron Smith was a late signing for this season, but he proved that wasn’t an issue with yet another masterful performance against the team that declined to sign him as a youngster.
He sets the attitude in defence and led the team by laying 49 of them, not bad for a 35 year old, and his team followed the lead.
His ball that put Kenny Bromwich through for his try early in the second half was vintage.
The other Smith ain’t bad either
Brandon Smith, the back-up hooker, made a big impact when he came off the bench to play in a hybrid front-back row forward role.
His incisive runs, often with multiple defenders trying to get him down and tackling in the middle of the field was vitally important in keeping the Broncos forwards quiet for the majority of the night.
When Cameron Smith does retire the replacement is already here and will be more than ready to go.
Never bet against Bellamy in Round 1
Craig Bellamy is still undefeated in Round 1 stretching back to the start of his Storm coaching career in 2003.
This cannot be underestimated, while starting the season off with a win does not mean anything come September/October, the release of pressure from breaking that duck must give the club a pep in its step.
Especially with two road games against quality opposition in Canberra and Penrith to come.
Friday March 22nd (6pm) vs Canberra at GIO Stadium