Reece Walsh has shown why he is considered by many as the best player in Rugby League right now, but a number of incidents certainly divided fans during the Broncos masterclass against the Storm on Friday night. Walsh was electric in attack and just as strong in defence after recording a try and adding a try assist to help the home team defeat the Storm 26-0 in the first NRL finals game.
The Broncos had not defeated the Storm at home since 2009, but were fired up in front of a raucous crowd as they took an 8-0 lead into half-time. And Walsh came out in the second-half like a man on a mission.
After a dubious six-again when it appeared the Broncos may have knocked-on the ball, Walsh picked the ball up with the defensive line beckoning.
And in a moment of magic Walsh threw a dummy and fooled Cameron Munster, before skipping past a defender to leave the Storm reeling. Fans were left in utter disbelief as Walsh continued his brilliant form having now scored four tries in four consecutive games.
He then set-up Jordan Riki moments later to leave the Storm reeling from a Broncos onslaught. For all his brilliance, Walsh also divides.
Having become the pantomime villain for Blues fans during the State of Origin series, he again perturbed Melbourne Storm fans. The first incident involved Walsh going down after a suspect late hit.
The penalty was given to the Broncos after Walsh was collected slightly late after he put in a kick. However, he was cradled to the ground with contact very minimal. Walsh's antics frustrated Storm fans who claimed he was given a soft penalty. Munster then attempted a captain's challenge to overturn the referee's call, but was denied because it was claimed he took too long.
Moments later, Walsh jumped up into the air to catch a spiralling bomb. After the successful take, Walsh kicked out his legs and hit the Storm on-rusher. The Broncos were handed a penalty for Walsh being impacted in the air.
Fans were left fuming over the two incidents with many believing neither warranted a penalty. Many fans were left seething at the calls as the Broncos and Walsh ran riot.
Regardless, the superstar received plenty of praise with the Maroons No.1 proving he could be the best fullback in the game right now. Michael Ennis described Walsh as 'brash and confident' when he praised the 21-year-old's performance. "He has all the skill and speed. But, I thought he played tough. He was in their face, he agitated them. And he continues to dominate under huge pressure," Ennis said on Fox Sports.
The most impressive thing Reece Walsh has done this season is show a capability to reel it in and play more calculated in high pressure situations. That Origin series did wonders for his development. #NRLBroncosStorm
— Jordan Patu (@Jordan_Patu) September 8, 2023
Reece Walsh … Superstar
— Phil Gould (@PhilGould15) September 8, 2023
Reece walsh is unreal 🔥🔥🔥
Come on broncos 🔥
— Jord Shelton (@FUT_JORD_LFC) September 8, 2023
A very fortunate few minutes for the Broncos. I'd love to see the six again that ended in the Reece Walsh try, and that 'late shot' on Walsh was very iffy. Ends in another try. Game over #nrlBroncosStorm #nrl
— 24 Sep 1989 (@Raiders_24Sep89) September 8, 2023
— Scott Pryde (@sk_pryde) September 8, 2023
Walsh a deadset protected species! Not a penalty and now the broncos score from a rubbish decision #nrlbroncosstorm
— Sam Dick (@samdick95) September 8, 2023
Broncos knock on leading to the Walsh try called a six again. Walsh penalty that can't be challenged into the Rikki try.
— Braden (@bradenstwit) September 8, 2023
It only compounded a bad night for the Storm who routinely allowed the home side to be carried out of their own territory with penalties.
It was the first time in the club's history the team has kept their opponents scoreless in the NRL finals. The Storm haven't been kept scoreless in the NRL finals since 2003.
Unfortunately, the game was marred with Ryan Papenhuyzen breaking his ankle in just his third game back.
The fullback was attempting a tackle when his leg became stuck under teammate Nelson Asofa-Solomona. The 25-year-old went down and was writhing in pain.
Players from both teams rushed to help Papenhuyzen as referee Grant Atkins stopped the game immediately and signalled for help. Coach Craig Bellamy was left shattered for his fullback after the incident.
"He's in a whole heap of pain and it's a suspected broken ankle," Craig Bellamy said, after images cut to him during the incident and showed him in disbelief at the injury. "I can't imagine how he's feeling at the moment.
"The amount of work he put in to get back to playing again, then get back into the NRL too. It wasn't a great night anyway, and it made it a lot worse."
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