Matt Harris, Queensland Correspondent
Broncos v Roosters
Friday 7.40pm AEST
"We won't get home on what we did last week – we'll have to go to another level."
Those were the words from Broncos coach Anthony Griffin on the eve of Brisbane’s 16-12 victory over the Cowboys in Round 2.
However, on the strength of the Roosters' 56-4 annihilation of the Eels last Saturday night, he’ll need his team to ascend another two or three levels in order to match it with the rampant reigning premiers – who are perched back on the top level of their Bondi penthouse.
LAST TIME THEY MET: WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS IN THE PLAYER ABOVE
The Chooks carved up the insipid Eels in the second half of their Round 2 clash, piling on seven unanswered tries and dispelling any murmurings of a premiership hangover after their 28-8 trouncing at the hands of John Sutton’s Bunnies in the opening round.
In that Round 1 loss to South Sydney, the Roosters couldn’t muster any line breaks, while in their 10-tries-to-one win against Parra they piled on 14, restoring the status quo from their 2013 premiership-winning season where they topped the charts for most line breaks per game.
Anthony Minichiello looked like his old self again after a poor outing against the Rabbitohs, crossing for the first hat-trick of his 277-game NRL career. The 33-year-old also managed to break a try-scoring drought stretching back to Round 14 of last year.
Regardless of how chuffed the boys from Bondi will be feeling after their 52-point win, they’re in for a sterner examination this week when they confront the Broncos.
Back-to-back wins to open the season is a massive weight off the collective shoulders of the Broncos, but the true litmus test lies in Friday’s clash.
Brisbane has demonstrated a steely determination in defence that looked improbable after their final trial against the Warriors. Conceding only 12 points per match like the Broncos have in their first two games would undoubtedly be sufficient enough for any NRL side to win more games than they lose, however the Roosters present a different kettle of fish, or poultry, if you like.
These sides clashed in Round 3 of last season and on that occasion it was the Roosters who prevailed in a low-scoring affair, snuffing out the Broncos 8-0 at Allianz Stadium.
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The Suncorp Stadium clash marks the first time these sides have met at Brisbane’s home ground since 2010; on that occasion the Chooks won a 34-30 thriller.
Don’t expect such a high-scoring affair this time round though, as the Broncos are still finding their feet in attack.
Watch Out Broncos: When the Roosters score 10 tries in a match, you’d naturally think a prolific try-scorer such as Michael Jennings would be amongst the names on the scoresheet. However, the Tricolours’ left centre missed out on a four-pointer against the Eels, as the Roosters ran most of their plays down the right edge, with only two tries scored on the left.
The 25-year-old Jennings scored the solitary try for the Chooks in their Round 1 loss to Souths. He will be hungry to replicate his 2013 form when he crossed for 20 tries, had six try assists and made 18 line breaks.
Watch Out Roosters: Martin Kennedy will have himself primed for the first clash against his former club. The 190cm, 122kg off-season acquisition has added some much-needed size and grunt to the Broncos’ pack. The 25-year-old has only played 44 minutes over two games so far this seasonbut it’s likely he’ll be required to complete a longer shift this weekend after the one-game suspension issued to starting prop Josh McGuire.
Kennedy demonstrated the added aggression he can bring to the Broncos after a scuffle with Michael Ennis in Round 1 but his short temper can prove costly at times and his former teammates will look to exploit this. The Norths Ipswich junior will be seeking an improved performance against the Roosters after a cameo role against the Cowboys.
Plays To Watch: The Roosters running their plays down the right edge to utilise Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; the Broncos' left wing and centre pairing of Daniel Vidot and Jack Reed are in for a busy night if the Roosters get a roll on inside their attacking half, as they love using the strong and powerful duo of 'SKD' and 'RTS'. Luckily for the Broncos, a three-game suspension incurred after Round 1 has robbed the Roosters of another key man with three initials – SBW.
Where It Will Be Won: The halves. The Roosters have a settled combination, with James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce entering their second season together at club level. Meanwhile the Broncos’ halves combo of Josh Hoffman and Ben Hunt is still in its infancy, having played together as a halves pairing just twice in the NRL.
Pearce and Maloney were every NRL Fantasy player’s dream last season; Maloney topped the try-assist charts with 26, while Pearce wasn’t far behind with 20 try assists. They also share the general kicking duties, giving the Roosters a kicking option either side of the ruck.
So far this season Pearce has made 13 kicks in general play with Maloney nine. For the Broncos, their over-reliance on halfback Ben Hunt is evident; he has kicked the ball 22 times in general play, compared to his halves partner Josh Hoffman who has only booted the Steeden five times.
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The History: Played 38; Broncos 24, Roosters 14. Since their entry in 1988 the Broncos have had the wood over Eastern Suburbs (8-1), shared the spoils with Sydney City (4-3) and struggled against the Sydney Roosters before evening up the ledger more recently. Of their past 10 meetings the Broncos won the first five but it's the Roosters who have won three of the past five to have momentum heading into this one. Incredibly, this is just the second meeting of the Broncos and Roosters in Brisbane since 2005.
What Are The Odds: Punters are backing the Roosters, who are $1.53 favourites with Sportsbet to end the Broncos undefeated start to the year. Money is narrowly in their favour in head-to-head betting. The Broncos are $2.50 outsiders at home. The Chooks have also been crunched to cover the -4.0 points line.
Match Officials: Referees – Shayne Hayne & Chris James; Touch Judges – Russell Turner & Michael Wise; Video Referees – Steve Clark & Luke Patten.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.30pm (Qld); Delayed 9.30pm (NSW).
The Way We See It: Another stern test awaits the Broncos, with their advantage having a vocal home crowd behind them. They’ve set a benchmark of only conceding 12 points per match so far this season and will need to repeat the dose of defensive nous displayed against the Bulldogs and Cowboys.
The Roosters have quality right across the park and if they produce the attacking ruthlessness witnessed against the Eels, the Broncos could be in for a long night. The main advantage for the Roosters is their settled halves combination of Pearce and Maloney. Whichever halves combination wins the battle in the middle will go a long way to deciding the outcome of the game.
The Chooks should be too strong – but Broncos fans need not despair, as they have gone in underdogs for the past two weeks and come up trumps on both occasions. Roosters by 8 points.
Statistics: Champion Data.