This match marks the 10th anniversary of the Wests Tigers and is sure to be a heck of an exciting clash. Brisbane, featuring the likes of Darren Lockyer, Israel Folau and Justin Hodges, up against the Wests Tigers’ “entertainers” in the likes of Robbie Farah, Benji Marshall and Taniela Tuiaki.
Brisbane have been strong this season under new coach Ivan Henjak, sitting equal first on 14 competition points, while the Tigers sit just outside the top eight with four wins. If either of these teams click on Friday night at Campbelltown, it’ll be goodnight for their opposition.
Watch out Wests Tigers: The Broncos rebounded after their Round 9 loss to the Sea Eagles with an emphatic 32-18 effort against the Titans last Friday night. Folau (eight line-breaks, 10 tries and two try assists) was particularly destructive, crossing four times. Quite simply, when the Broncos are hot any team in the competition will have trouble stopping them.
Their halves pairing of Lockyer (three line-breaks, eight line-break assists, two tries and seven try assists) and Wallace (two line-breaks, two line-break assists, two tries and 10 try assists) is one of the best in the game, and coupled with forwards the likes of Nick Kenny, Joel Clinton, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker, it’s usually a matter of when – not if – they cross the line.
With option runners including Folau, Karmichael Hunt (five line-breaks, eight line-break assists, six tries and nine try assists) and Justin Hodges, the Broncos have arguably one of the most potent backlines in the competition.
Watch out Broncos: On the flip side, when Benji’s hot so are the Wests Tigers! Do yourself a favour and visit NRL.com’s video library highlights of the team in action – he’s always at the forefront of the Tigers’ best plays. He’s returned to near his best this season after suffering shoulder injuries the past couple of years, and his form shows it – four line-breaks, eight line-break assists and 11 try assists.
The Broncos will need to stay on their toes around the fringes of the ruck, where Marshall loves to dance and offer his players the ball – sometimes before stepping past defenders and shooting through a gap by himself.
Robbie Farah is another Tiger in top form. He’s recorded six line-breaks, seven line-break assists, three tries and 10 try assists; it’s no wonder he’s in calculations for an Origin jersey. If those two click and find space for Tuiaki (10 line-breaks and eight tries) to run into, the Broncos will have a tough night ahead of them.
Where it will be won: Defence will be the key. It’s no secret the Broncos’ halves are their statistical weakness and it’s a certainty Tim Sheens and the Tigers’ coaching staff will look to take full advantage.
Expect back-rowers Gareth Ellis and Chris Heighington to run at Lockyer (71.4% tackle efficiency – 42 missed and 22 ineffective) and Wallace (79.6% tackle efficiency – 34 missed and 18 ineffective) not only to exploit their weakness but to also nullify their attacking games. If they can do both, expect the home side to register a victory.
But the Tigers aren’t without their own weaknesses either – their defence in the middle of the field has question marks hanging over it. John Skandalis, who played in the Wests Tigers’ first match, returns for his first NRL match in 992 days after leaving the club for the UK Super League.
Fellow veteran prop Todd Payten has struggled at times with defence this year (84% efficiency – 22 misses and 18 ineffective) as has Ellis (34 dominant tackles but 25 misses and 13 ineffective) and Heighington (85.4% efficiency – 16 misses and 20 ineffective). Look for the Broncos to run Hunt , centre Justin Hodges and even Folau through the middle of the park at various stages of the match to try to exploit the tiring forwards.
The history: Played 16; Broncos 12, Wests Tigers 3, drawn 1.
Conclusion: Both teams love to attack but it’s their ability to defend that will decide this match. With key players like Chris Lawrence missing and Farah in doubt with concussion, it’s difficult to go past the ever-consistent Broncos. They should get the cash... although a surge of emotion with the Wests Tigers’ 10-year anniversary could boost the home side.
Match officials: Referees: Ben Cummins & Jared Maxwell; Sideline officials: Grant Atkins & Adam Devcich; Video Referee: Paul Simpkins.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.30pm (Qld), delayed 9.30pm NSW); Fox Sports – Delayed 1am Sat.