NRL news 2023 | Brisbane Broncos defeat Warriors in preliminary final, Reece Walsh forward pass missed by officials

A blatant forward pass from Reece Walsh put a sour taste in the mouths of Warriors fans as the Broncos blitzed their way to a 42-12 preliminary final victory, booking their place in next Sunday’s decider against the Panthers.

In a performance that was far from polished, Brisbane absorbed early pressure and bounced back from a Walsh intercept pass that gave Dallin Watene-Zelezniak his second try of the night on a silver platter to run away with it in the second half as the Warriors faded.

In some ways the fight was taken out of the Warriors with 25 minutes remaining on the clock by an awful blunder from the officials, with a converted Jordan Riki try to take the score from 24-12 to 30-12 set up by a pass from Walsh that went at least two metres forward.

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“Well that very might well put them into a grand final but there was a forward pass right in front of us in the commentary box,” observed Paul Vautin, in commentary for Nine.

“Yeah, it was by Reece Walsh, wasn’t it Fatty,” replied Cameron Smith. “The touchie was about 15 metres behind him, he couldn’t keep up … yeah, that’s gone about three metres forward, that’s an absolute shocker but anyway, you cannot review forward passes, you cannot take that back.”

In the post game coverage, Smith dissected the moment for a second time, pinpointing it as the moment the Warriors had the air taken out of their balloon.

“I don’t know how the officials missed it it was a forward pass by a mile,” Smith said.

“Jordan Riki goes down to score that try. That really broke the Warriors. It changed the game. It broke the Warriors. It changed the entire game, let’s be honest.”

While that moment will be memorable for all the wrong reasons, there were several others through the match where Walsh was the difference maker.

Of the seven tries the Broncos scored, the superstar fullback played a key role in four. On the flipside, Walsh threw an intercept pass and made other poorly timed mistakes, but his speed and sense of adventure will be what puts the Panthers most on edge as they plan for the grand final.

Stream every game of the 2023 NRL finals series live and free on 9Now

DWZ picks off Walsh pass for intercept try

“The Broncos can challenge the Penrith dominance in the last couple of years, no doubt about it,” Paul Vautin said in the post game.

“It all starts with the man RW, Reece Walsh. He’s the key to it. The football he gets, the more he gets involved, passing, talking to the players, the better they’ll go.

“He’s a super player. He proved it again tonight. Just magnificent.”

Walsh was interviewed by Nine’s James Bracey, Sam Thaiday and Cameron Smith in the post-game and admitted he was a “nervous wreck” playing the biggest game of his club career in front of a packed Suncorp Stadium.

He credited the team’s senior players for having a calming influence after the Warriors jumped out to an early lead, adding that his own game had been influenced strongly by former club captain and fullback great Darius Boyd.

Darius’ major influence on Walsh’s rise

“He’s been massive mate,” Walsh said. “all the little tips, I still remember Darbs, when I was 15 he came down to the academy and he was just teaching us three on twos … his advice is second to none and he was awesome at his craft at fullback and there’s only a benefit out of it for myself.

“I think it’s shown this year what Darbs’ advice could do for myself.”

Looking ahead to the grand final, Walsh said the Broncos had a settled blueprint and wouldn’t need to tweak much to put themselves in a position to lift the trophy.

“We know what our footy looks like, we’ve got big mobile forwards that I think can really match it with theirs,” he said.

“It’s going to be an arm wrestle. It’s probably not going to come as easy but it does feel like if we can play our brand of footy really well and fight for each other, get those little moments right, you know, the bigger the game, the bigger the small moments count, so if we can do that and really match it at the start with Penrith, it’s going to be an entertaining game.”

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