Rival ‘smokes’ de Belin in first game back

Jack de Belin’s first NRL appearance since 2018 got off to a suboptimal start on Thursday night.

De Belin, who late last month had his sexual assault charges dropped, re-entered the Dragons’ 17 for their clash with the Broncos.

The 30-year-old came off the bench for the Red V in jersey 17, having played for the club’s NSW Cup side last week.

Coach Anthony Griffin injected de Belin into the action in the 28th minute of the first half, much to the delight of the home crowd, who gave the forward a rousing reception as he braced himself to enter the contest.

It didn’t take long for the former Origin star to find himself in the middle of the action, but not in the way he would have liked.

Close to his line, De Belin was swindled by another ageing star on the path to redemption — Broncos playmaker Albert Kelly — who stepped around the Dragon like a traffic cone and passed off to TC Robati.

From there, the youngster took on the line and crashed over for his second four-pointer of the night.

“This is great work from Albert Kelly,” said Fox League’s Braith Anasta in commentary.

“De Belin, (Kelly) beats him, smokes him on his inside shoulder.

“He sees the big space between de Belin and (Dragons hooker Andrew) McCullough and he takes it on with that right foot. Off the right. De Belin — he’s gone.”

De Belin finished the half with 22 run metres from three runs across his 12 minutes of football.

Kelly, who joined the Broncos on a train and trial contract this year, set up all three of the Broncos’ first half tries, showing that six years away from the NRL has robbed him of none of his deft touch with ball in hand.

Albert Kelly could do some damage alongside Adam Reynolds for @brisbanebroncos next year if given the chance. #NRL#NRLDragonsBroncos

It was the Dragons, though, who took the lead at the break, courtesy of a Matt Dufty try in the dying seconds of the stanza.

The Dragons took a six-point lead into the break. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

The pint-sized fullback — who has been informed his services are not required at the joint venture beyond this season — was immense in the first 40.

To go with his try, he chalked up two try assists, one line break and one line break assist.

His side took a 24-18 lead into the break as fans of both outfits looked eagerly to the second half.

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