<
>

Broncos down Souths amid NRL injury woes

A shoulder injury to halfback Brodie Croft has soured Brisbane's 22-18 NRL win over South Sydney at an empty Suncorp Stadium.

A try-scoring hat-trick to outstanding centre Kotoni Staggs fired up the Broncos, ensuring they overcame the surreal nature of a venue devoid of spectators due to coronavirus and made a perfect 2-0 start to the 2020 season.

There was much to be proud of for Brisbane fans who were watching from afar, however Friday night's stirring victory was tempered by the sight of playmaker Croft being helped off the field in distress in just the 14th minute.

Croft was on fire from the outset, backing up from his inspirational hand in Brisbane's opening-round 28-21 victory over North Queensland by setting up Staggs' opening try in the seventh minute.

But disaster struck soon after as Croft crumpled to the ground, clutching his shoulder, with Broncos staff hinting the Melbourne recruit had suffered an AC injury and might be sidelined for up to three weeks.

At first, it made no difference to the Broncos' juggernaut.

At one stage, they enjoyed a 94 percent completion rate, helping them to jump to a 10-0 lead only 23 minutes in after five-eighth Anthony Milford had beaten seven defenders to run 40m and score near the posts.

The Rabbitohs somehow snatched a 12-10 halftime lead after Cody Walker set up a 30th-minute try for Campbell Graham before helping himself to one four minutes later as Souths coach Wayne Bennett watched from behind the goalposts in the deserted venue.

However, Brisbane kicked away when Staggs completed his hat-trick by crossing in the 49th and 57th minutes before makeshift Rabbitohs fullback Alex Johnston scored a consolation 74th-minute try for the visitors.

While there was concern for Croft, Brisbane were also anxious over winger Corey Oates who came off in the 78th minute with a suspected rib complaint.

Adding injury to insult for the visitors, who crashed back to earth after their opening round 22-14 win over Cronulla, Rabbitohs second-rower Cameron Murray came off in the 77th minute with a suspected knee injury.

It marks the first time Brisbane have started a season with consecutive wins since 2016.

And it also breaks Broncos coach Anthony Seibold's duck against Bennett, marking his first win in five games against the former Brisbane mentor.

It is also just the third win in 11 games for Brisbane without back-rower Tevita Pangai, who has started a four-game suspension for dangerous contact.