The Brisbane Broncos produced a stunning upset to beat the defending premiers 13-12 at BlueBet Stadium on Friday night.
Back-to-back tries by young gun Herbie Farnworth in the opening half put the visitors out to an early lead and a sweetly struck field goal by skipper Adam Reynolds in the 71st minute iced the Broncos' first win at Penrith since 2009.
It was the Panthers who were first to open their 2023 campaign with a spectacular team try from beyond halfway.
Dylan Edwards, Nathan Cleary and Liam Martin all had a hand in the right-side shift before Stephen Crichton raced away to touch down in the southern corner and hand Cleary his 500th goal.
Come the 17th minute and the visitors hit back through Farnworth who stepped around Crichton, who only had eyes for an intercept, and crashed his way over the line to level the scores.
Herbie levels it up
Just two minutes later and it was Farnworth again who found himself in a race with Panthers winger Brian To'o and managed to get his hands on the ball first to go back-to-back for Brisbane and put Broncos in front 12-6.
Martin and new recruit Luke Garner both crossed the line before half-time but were unable to capitalise through errors and the visitors went into the break with a six-point lead over the reigning premiers.
The game developed into an arm wrestle in the second half with both sides unable to add to the score until Reynolds landed his one-pointer to make it 13-6.
Reynolds as cool as you like
Penrith missed another opportunity to reduce the deficit with five-eighth Jarome Luai putting the ball down just short of the goal line in the 72nd minute. But the home side refused to lie down and hooker Soni Luke brought his side back within reach when he burrowed over from dummy half. Cleary converted for 13-12.
Cleary had a long range shot at a two-point field goal which fell short and Selwyn Cobbo cleaned up but the Broncos fullback lost possession and it appeared the premiers would get another chance but Luai was ruled offside in the chase and a penalty to the visitors got them out of the danger zone.
Match: Panthers v Broncos
Round 1 -
Venue: BlueBet Stadium, Penrith
- The Panthers fielded 11 members of the starting 13 from last year's grand final.
- Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary has kicked his 500th goal in the opening half of the match.
- Scoring two tries, running 154 metres with the ball and breaking three tackles, future Dolphin Herbie Farnworth would have left Wayne Bennett smiling after his campaign opener.
Reynolds as cool as you like
- After missing four games at the end of last season due to suspension, Broncos prop Patrick Carrigan made up for lost time in his campaign opener, wracking up 50 tackles for the match.
- 20-year-old Brisbane fullback Selwyn Cobbo ran 197 metres in his first NRL game as the starting No. 1.
- Panthers forward Scott Sorensen suffered a Category 1 head knock after his head collided with the hip of Keenan Palasia in the 43rd minute of the match.
Play of the Game
The Broncos blew the game wide open when Billy Walters found five-eighth Ezra Mam, who stepped around Penrith skipper Nathan Cleary and put his boot to the ball. After scoring just four minutes earlier, centre Herbie Farnworth found himself in a foot race with Penrith winger Brian To’o and edged in front and planted the ball down to put his side in the lead.
Farnworth shocks the champs
What They Said
"Penrith have been a great side for a long time and everyone's chasing them. It was a tight game, fortunately, we were in front at the back end but there wasn't much in it so we won't get carried away. As a whole the effort there was really good, particularly our try-line defence. That's the best defence I've seen since I've been at the club in the last three years." - Broncos coach Kevin Walters
Broncos: Round 1
"We came into the game with a lot of confidence so this just reassures us that we're doing the right thing at training. Everyone's chasing them, everyone's working hard and every team is going to turn up and play their best football against Penrith. I don't think I had my best game, there's still a lot of improvement in myself and the team and that's the exciting thing." - Broncos captain Adam Reynolds
"It felt like we were winning field position, definitely had a lot more opportunities but we left a couple of tries out there and were a little bit disorganised at times as well which was pretty standard for Round 1. A little bit of early-season rust. The team's different too, obviously we've got a different dummy half, a shorter pre-season and both games we've played the weather's been pretty bad. We've got some work to do there but I'm sure we'll do it." - Panthers coach Ivan Cleary
Panthers: Round 1
Penrith are on home turf again in Round 2 when they host the Rabbitohs. Sparks will no doubt be flying at BlueBet Stadium as South Sydney look to overcome the side that ended their season in last year's semi-finals.
While the Broncos are set to host the Cowboys in a cross-town derby at Suncorp Stadium. Kevin Walters said young gun Reece Walsh will be available for the Round 2 clash after sustaining a facial fracture in the Pre-season Challenge.