Broncos down Souths amid NRL injury woes

Laine Clark
Three Kotoni Staggs tries have led Brisbane to a 22-18 NRL win over South Sydney at Suncorp Stadium

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 might be sidelined for up to three weeks.

"It's an AC joint injury. Hopefully it settles down in a coupe of days but we have (replacement No.7) Tom Dearden who is sitting there - he is fresh, we will back him," Broncos coach Anthony Seibold said.

At first, Croft's injury did not slow down the Broncos' juggernaut.

They jumped to a 10-0 lead in just 23 minutes after five-eighth Anthony Milford beat seven defenders to run 40m and score near the posts.

Yet the Rabbitohs somehow snatched a 12-10 half-time 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 - who at one stage chimed into halfback - completed his hat-trick by crossing in the 49th and 57th minutes before Alex Johnston scored a consolation try for the visitors with six minutes left on the clock.

In other injury news, Brisbane were sweating on winger Corey Oates (rib) who came off in the 78th minute while Rabbitohs second-rower Cameron Murray (knee) came off a minute earlier.

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

And it also breaks 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.