Sunday 1pm (Qld time)
It might be very early days in the season but this is officially a top-eight clash as Brisbane host the Warriors in the early timeslot on Sunday.
Both teams sport a 1-1 record, along with six other teams, but differential has the Warriors in sixth while the Broncos are still in the finals zone at eighth.
Brisbane, who started the year with a 30-24 win over North Queensland, came back to earth with a frustrating 22-14 loss to Canberra on Monday night. Despite having enough ball to win two matches, the Broncos bumbled around Canberra Stadium and couldn’t reel in the Raiders.
With Corey Parker in doubt for this match, the inexperienced Broncos unit has a tough ask.
Josh McGuire has been pushed back to the bench, with Ben Teo slated to start in the back row. Lagi Setu has been named as the 18th man and could possibly be in for the injured Parker.
The Warriors opened their 2010 account with a 30-16 win over the Sharks last weekend, after falling to the Titans 24-18 in the opening round.
The win has garnered some confidence for the side, as they set out to prove most pundits wrong.
Lewis Brown is out suspended, while James Maloney is fighting his charge tonight (Wednesday) to try to take his place on Sunday. Ben Matulino is in for Brown, with Sione Lousi coming onto the bench. Sam Rapira has been named to start, with Russell Packer heading back to the bench.
Watch out Broncos: ‘The Beast’ is so hungry he could eat a… well, a horse! Manu Vatuvei just gets bigger and better when his confidence is up – and right now it’s sky high. Vatuvei leads the NRL with four line-breaks and five tries in the opening two weeks and he is averaging 166 metres gained. Big Manu is like a runaway freight train, even when he is only at half pace, and when he really winds up he is a wrecking ball of mammoth proportions. You can be sure the Warriors will try to get him plenty of ball on the left sideline.
The Warriors will also look to get Manu’s wing partner Kevin Locke involved, as the Broncos have shown a weakness at defending teams who attack to the right.
The trick to take Manu out of the game is to force him into error and shatter his confidence – otherwise, look out!
Watch out Warriors: The wily old veteran Darren Lockyer has regained his running game and the Broncos could really reap the benefits.
In the opening two games Lockyer has made three line-breaks; you might think ‘okay, that’s pretty good but this is the Australian captain’. But, considering the superstar had just four line-breaks in 20 regular-season matches last year, his start this season is well received.
The more Lockyer takes on the line, the more dangerous he is and the Warriors now must respect him as well as his ball runners.
Lockyer’s other stats have him averaging 60 metres gained, 245 kick metres, plus he has a line-break assist, try and try assist to his name.
Where it will be won: Across the ground. Both teams have been more than reasonable in gaining the hard yards but the Broncos are leading the NRL at this early stage in average metres gained and in line-breaks. If they continue this trend their attack will become more polished and cause all sorts of headaches.
Brisbane, who have been low metre-eaters in the past, are averaging 1487 metres a match and have notched 16 line-breaks, while the Warriors are making a respectable 1322 metres a match and have 12 line-breaks.
The main Brisbane metre-eaters are Corey Parker (155 metres avg), Sam Thaiday (128 metres), Israel Folau (125 metres), Scott Anderson (124 metres), Antonio Winterstein (114 metres), Nick Kenny (110 metres) and Matt Gillett (102 metres).
Helping Lockyer in the line-break department is Folau and Peter Wallace, who each have two.
For the Warriors, Vatuvei is averaging 166 metres, with help coming from Brent Tate (123 metres), Russell Packer (109 metres), Lance Hohaia (107 metres) and Sam Rapira (106 metres). Helping Manu with line-breaks are Hohaia and Maloney with two each.
The Broncos are kicking the ball slightly further per match, and slightly more accurately also, so the Warriors need to find somewhere to make up the discrepancy – otherwise the edge is with the home side.
The History: Played 25; Broncos 16, Warriors 9. The Broncos won both clashes between the clubs last season but wins have come in pairs between these two outfits since 2005. The win two, lose two sequences since then would have the Warriors winning this battle.
However, the Broncos have won three of the four matches at Suncorp Stadium.
Conclusion: The Warriors may have lost in this sun-drenched time slot in the opening round but they certainly didn’t melt or wilt like predicted, so they shape as a big hope here.
The Broncos should have the edge at home but if Corey Parker is ruled out they will lose a big reason for their success thus far.
At this stage of the season this match is a real toss-up. However, when in doubt it’s usually best to stick with the home side – even if they are on the quick six-day back-up. And especially given the Warriors fail to travel well.
Match officials: Referees – Steve Lyons & Alan Shortall; Sideline Officials – Daniel Eastwood & Ricky McFarlane; Video Ref – Tim Mander.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 2pm.