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Broncos v Titans preview

Broncos v Titans
Suncorp Stadium
Friday 7.40pm

A dark cloud will converge on the finals chances of whichever piece of the Sunshine State walks away without the two competition points on Friday night, as both the Broncos and Titans seek to salvage their strong starts to 2014.

Such doom and gloom may seem premature for the Titans given they currently sit in equal second position, just two points adrift of top spot, but if results go a certain way a loss to the Broncos could see them drop as low as eighth on the ladder by the end of Round 10.

If you punch in 10-point wins for the Broncos, Rabbitohs, Eels, Wests Tigers, Roosters and Panthers into the very clever ladder predictor on NRL.com, the Titans take a tumble that will be magnified by the suspension of co-captain Greg Bird and the looming Origin period.

Win, however, and not only will their confidence get a tremendous boost but that minimum number of points to qualify for finals footy all of a sudden seems well within reach.

Despite a strong start to the season the Broncos have now dropped out of the top eight and find themselves in that precarious position of watching their stocks being subjected to market conditions.

Ben Hannant earns a recall after a week cooling his jets with Ipswich in the Intrust Super Cup, with Jarrod Wallace promoted to the run-on side and Martin Kennedy dropped to the Intrust Super Cup.

The Bronco forwards were well and truly beaten to the punch by the Cowboys' big men last Friday night, which is reflected in the fact that Brisbane spent just 29 minutes of the game in North Queensland's half.

Although they will be without Bird, the Titans welcome back Luke Bailey from injury and both Matthew White and Paul Carter from suspension to set up another ferocious battle up front.

The Broncos will be wearing a pink jersey in honour of Women in League Round for just the second time and have a Broncos Fillies membership offer that includes a reserved seat in the area of your choice on Friday night, a limited edition Fillies tote bag, 2014 Broncos membership card, 2-for-1 ticket offer to a Broncos home game of your choice and $20 voucher at Broncos Superstore, all for just $43.

The Broncos may be going all pink but given their capitulation against the Rabbitohs last week and the controversy surrounding their co-captain, to the Titans it might just look like a lighter shade of red.

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Watch Out Titans: There may not have been anyone more surprised at Michael Morgan's stunning goal-line tackle of Matt Gillett last Friday than Gillett himself. Charging back on an angle on the outside-in line, you could argue that only a handful of players could have stopped him from scoring and Morgan just happened to be one of those players.

Whether it dented his confidence or has inspired him to run even harder next time we will see on Friday night but after earning his first Kangaroos jersey and with Origin just around the corner, the safe bet would be the latter. His 106m in hit-ups (in a total of 124m) shows that he is not afraid to roll up his sleeves but his greatest asset to the Broncos will be to continually ask questions of the Titans' left-edge defence.

Watch Out Broncos: When the Broncos headed down the M1 for the first of the south-east derbies in Round 6, David Mead had just started building his case for permanent residency in the fullback position. A game-changing try, 270 running metres and six tackle breaks later and Mead was all of a sudden popping up on NSW Origin radars. Even when trusted custodian William Zillman returned last week he did so in the centres but with the Rabbitohs opposite Dylan Walker scoring four tries and Mead having his most subdued game in the No.1, coach John Cartwright will still be tinkering in his mind what the best formation is moving forward.

Mead can make that decision for him with an electrifying display in front of a big Suncorp Stadium crowd. If he can silence the Broncos fans, so will he any doubts Cartwright may have that he has made the right decision.

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Plays To Watch: The Cowboys showed that you can stop a rampaging Matt Gillett coming back on the angle but it is also said that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice. He is a potent weapon on the edges but it's in the middle third that the Broncos need to direct most of their attention. Titans coach John Cartwright will have carefully dissected the manner in which the Cowboys tore through the middle of the Brisbane ruck and use it as a guide as to how to get his side on the front foot.

Another reshuffle in the Titans centres will be worth exploring for the Broncos, particularly right centre Justin Hodges up against William Zillman who had four tries put past him by Dylan Walker last week. Expect to see the Broncos push the big men down the left in order to create one-on-one opportunities Gillett and Hodges on the right.

Where It Will Be Won: The Broncos are ranked fourth in the competition for restricting the number of offloads from the opposition with 79 and their ability to shut down the ball will be fully tested against a Titans side that offloads more than any other team. The Broncos concede an average of 8.78 offloads per game while the Titans rely on their 12.67 offloads per game to prise open holes in the defensive line. Gold Coast's 19 line breaks are the least in the NRL – and seven fewer than the 15th-ranked Raiders – so offloads are paramount in creating try scoring opportunities. If the Broncos can shut that avenue down, they go a long way to winning the game.

The History: Played 16; Broncos 11, Titans 5. There have been some dramatic finishes between these two teams in their short history but you have to go back to Darren Lockyer's winning field goal back in 2007 to find something to match the most recent meeting in Round 6. Having dictated terms for much of the game the Broncos literally had victory snatched from Ben Barba's grasp when Aidan Sezer pounced in the 74th minute for a 12-8 win. David Mead sparked that win with a sensational solo try, his sixth four-pointer in 10 games against the Broncos.

Match Officials: Referee – Ben Cummins; Assistant Referee – Dave Munro; Touch Judges – Brett Suttor & Michael Wise; Video Referees – Steve Clark & Luke Phillips.

Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.30pm (Qld); delayed 9.30pm (NSW).

How We See It: The Titans got out of jail when the two sides met a month ago but they are going to have to deliver a dominant performance in the forwards to quell what is a much more potent Broncos attack. The Broncos boast 27 try assists compared to the Titans' 14 and 30 line break assists compared to the Titans' 11, so they throw a lot more at opposition defences than the Titans do.

Amazingly, both teams have conceded 172 points through nine games at an average of 19.1 – and made 2887 tackles – but the Broncos have scored 35 more points than their southern cousins. The Titans have been defying the numbers through nine rounds; it might finally catch up with them on Friday night. Broncos by eight points.

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