By STEVE MASCORD
GREG Inglis is already rated by National Rugby League players as the biggest star in their competition. What’s left for him, according to those who should know, is to get even better.
At halftime in the round eight opener against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium, the Broncos led by four and looked a real chance of causing a bunny boilover. In the 45th and 49th minutes, Inglis just destroyed them.
First, he launched himself at the tryline from close range and was about as easy to stop as a bullet. Souths regained the lead.
Then Inglis took the ball on his own tryline, charged upfield, offloaded to centre Bryson Goodwin and – on the next tackle – winger Nathan Merritt snuck down the blindside completing a 100 metre incursion over the space of around 60 seconds.
When five-eighth John Sutton waltzed over to the right of the posts in the 59th minute, referee Gerard Sutton commented: “Wow, that’s what you call putting your foot down all of a sudden.”
Inglis this week deposed Billy Slater as the top player in the game, according to the annual Rugby League Week players’ poll, with a vote of 35 per cent.
“He’s already been voted the best player in the game; as he gets better between now and the end of his career, he’s going to be our greatest ever,” former Australia captain Brad Fittler said in television commentary.
Another green-and-gold ex-skipper, Darren Lockyer, added: “Greg’s at his peak. Greg’s fitness is a big part of it. He’s running a lot more than what he used to.”
There were stretches of the first half when South Sydney looked to have events completely under their control. Then, almost without warning, fortunes swung dramatically and by halftime Brisbane held a 12-8 lead.
Souths’ first points came from a dubious fourth-minute penalty when Alex Glenn was found to have executed a shoulder charge on Adam Reynolds after he had hoisted a bomb. Replays suggested the contact had been minimal.
The bunnies showed the Broncos defence plenty of respect by opting for two points, with Reynolds unaffected by the challenge to the extent that he was easily able to slot the opening points.
Broncos halfback Peter Wallace was stung by a Reynolds hit not long afterwards – but got back his feet and played a key role in the home team’s first-half performance.
After a kick by Brisbane’s Matt Gillett went dead and a Souths break finished with the ball going to ground, Souths received a penalty when Scott Prince was found to have illegally interfered with Greg Inglis after a Sam Burgess bust.
Rabbitohs replacement Jason Clark arrowed at the tryline in the 15th minute, with Dave Hala desperately trying to hold him up.
But it was the boot of Brisbane fullback Corey Norman which played the biggest role in denying the try. Kicking a football from the grasp of a would-be tryscorer is illegal thanks to Matthew Ridge and Billy Slater, however.
“Have you considered a penalty try?” referee Shayne Hayne asked video referees Luke Patten and Chris Ward.
The did but settled on “no try” and a penalty to South Sydney. “They considered a penalty try but thought he still would have been held up,” Hayne told players.
Four minutes later, Clark got his try. Reynolds snatched up a poor pass from near his ankles, passed to John Sutton and the front rower neatly stepped Norman to cross near the posts. Reynolds goaled and things were going swimmingly for South Sydney.
Risky off-loads, however, were an apparent flaw in Souths’ game.
After a scramble for possession on the eastern side, Brisbane received a scrum-feed just over 10 metres out and halfback Prince scored quickly, skipping past a couple of defenders, before his conversion narrowed the margin to two.
That seemed likely to be the difference between the sides at halftime.
But when Andrew Everingham fumbled Wallace’s kick with a minute left until oranges, Brisbane centre Jack Reed came up with the ball in the north-western corner of Suncorp Stadium and came up with a try which the eyes in the sky approved.
After they ruled out Reed getting a hand to the ball in the air, Prince converted magnificently for an unlikely halftime lead.
Bronco Gillett had a try disallowed for obstruction in the 74th minute. He collided accidentally with team-mate Jarrod Wallace as he charged towards the line.
SOUTH SYDNEY 26 (J Clark G Inglis N Merritt J Sutton tries Reynolds 5 goals) bt BRISBANE 12 (S Prince J Reed tries S Prince 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referees: S Hayne/G Sutton. Crowd: 39,111.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
Final team lists:
BRISBANE: Corey Norman; Josh Hoffman, Jack Reed, Jordan Kahu, Lachlan Maranta; Scott Prince, Peter Wallace; Corey Parker, Matt Gillett, Alex Glenn, Sam Thaiday (c), Andrew McCullough, Ben Hannant. Res: Ben Hunt, Scott Anderson, David Hala, Jarrod Wallace.
SOUTHS: Greg Inglis; Nathan Merritt, Beau Champion, Bryson Goodwin, Andrew Everingham; John Sutton, Adam Reynolds; Sam Burgess, Ben Te’o, Chris McQueen, Roy Asotasi, Issac Luke, Dave Tyrell. Res: Nathan Peats, Jason Clark, Ben Lowe, George Burgess.
Holden Cup fulltime: Brisbane 24-20.