Ben Hunt has come back to haunt his former side, the Brisbane Broncos, guiding his new club the St George Illawarra Dragons to a comfortable victory in the 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership season opener.
Hunt, who laid on a deft kick for a Tyson Frizell try and then scored a try of his own when he took an intercept off an errant Matthew Lodge pass.
All eyes were also on the return of Lodge, who many believe should not be back playing NRL.
Nevertheless, Lodge was solid in his first game back in a number of years with Broncos coach Wayne Bennett confident that the prop will be better for the long-run after his opening hit-out.
“You have to start somewhere,” Bennett said at the post-match press conference.
“We got him on the footy field tonight and got him playing football.
“He just needs to play football, he played football tonight. First game back in the NRL for three years. It’s the best thing that’s happened to him.”
The opening twenty minutes of the game proved to be a scrappy affair as three penalty goals put the Dragons up 4-2.
The opening try came soon after, though, when Ben Hunt weighed up the situation from dummy half and deftly kicked ahead as Tyson Frizell outpaced and outmuscled Anthony Milford to score.
With a 10-2 lead at the break, the Broncos were in all sorts after a lacklustre display.
Despite their best efforts to lift intensity and enthusiasm in the second half – which they did to some extent on the back of a James Roberts double – it was not enough for a poor Broncos side.
Inopportune errors continued to cost them as further tries to Euan Aitken and Jack de Belin sealed a comfortable opening win for the Dragons.
Bennett did not mince his words, laying the blame solely at the feet of the forwards.
“That first half was poor. We had no momentum, couldn’t get anything. Our ball control was 45 percent at half time,” Bennett said.
“The halves can’t play if the other guys aren’t doing their job.”
Dragons coach Paul McGregor praised his new halves duo for their performances.
“Gareth … I’ll embarrass him but he’s got bottomless talent. He likes to play instinctive footy,” McGregor said.
“When you wear the seven you’ve got to execute a game plan. They complement each other really well. That was just the start of something we can build over the year.
“You’ve got two competitive players on the football field, we’ve got some strike on both edges.”
Player of the Game:
3. Ben Hunt
2. James Roberts
- Jack de Belin
St George Illawarra Dragons 32 (Frizell, Hunt, Aitken, De Belin, Nightingale; Widdop 7/8) def. Broncos 14 (Roberts 2; Kahu 2/3)