Broncos v Titans Preview

Broncos v Titans
Suncorp Stadium
Friday 7.35pm

The heritage of the Broncos and Titans might not go as deep as some other clubs in the competition but the rivalry between these two teams is most certainly as fierce as any other in the NRL, so we are in for a classic match.

Forget that the Broncos are languishing down in 13th place on the table and the Titans are flying high in second, because reputation and form counts for little in local derbies.

The Broncos have just found some form anyway, flogging the Storm in Melbourne, so those who expect a walkover had better think again.

The win over the Storm has the Broncos two wins adrift of the top eight, a goal they desperately want to achieve to keep the club streak of finals appearances alive.

They are fully aware they need to make up the ground now, as a loss could have them drop back to last among the competing teams (15th ahead of Melbourne).

The Titans managed to get home in a high-scoring shootout against the Knights, with the win pushing them up equal with league leaders St George Illawarra, but still second on differential.

A win guarantees the side stays top two, and potentially number one, but with an inferior differential to the Sea Eagles and Panthers a loss could drop them to fourth.

In some great news for the Broncos, Peter Wallace is back from injury to start at halfback, which sees Corey Norman revert to the bench.

Antonio Winterstein also returns in place of Dale Copley on the wing.

Scott Anderson is out of the side, with Shane Tronc to start at prop, while Sam Thaiday drops back to the second row with Lagi Setu moving to front row.

Michael Spence also misses out, with the new bench faces being Matt Gillett and Nick Kenny.

For the Titans, the only changes are cosmetic positional ones, after some stars were given bench time following rep football last week.

Preston Campbell goes back to fullback, William Zillman hits the bench as does Sam Tagataese, Greg Bird moves from lock to five-eighth, Ashley Harrison drops back from the second row to lock and Anthony Laffranchi and Mark Minichiello return to start in the second row. Brad Meyers has also been named to start at prop, with Michael Henderson taking a bench role.

Watch out Broncos: The Gold Coast side likes to entertain at the best of times, thanks to some scintillating speed out wide, and after looking over a few stats they will be aware the Broncos have a weakness they can exploit.

Brisbane have conceded more tries than any other side from over halfway, with nine for the year, or on average one a game. While the Titans have scored just three long-range tries in 2010, last season they were one of the best in the competition at going the distance.

With forwards who can ball-play before the line, the Titans set up nicely to suck in defenders before quickly shifting wide.

Watch out Titans: Israel Folau has a point to prove. After being overlooked for the Australian side as both a centre and a winger, Folau wants to prove his worth to all the doubters.

Whether his omission was political or not, the only place the young star can showcase his talent is on the field and this spells danger for the Titans. In just seven matches this season Folau averages 118 metres gained a match and he has seven line-breaks, two line-break assists, one try assist, 40 tackle breaks and eight tries. Not bad at all.

Where it will be won: Goal-line defence will be the crucial aspect of this encounter. Both the Titans and the Broncos struggle at holding teams out from within 10 metres of their line, causing problems on the scoreboard.

Brisbane has leaked 17 tries this season from close range – and the Gold Coast isn’t much better, with 16 conceded. Defending the line is about pride, teamwork, communication and intelligence. Both sides need to get out and meet the other, or simple four-pointers could end up being the order of the night.

Both sets of forwards need to want to defend hard by pushing up together and the wide defenders need to make wise decisions when it comes to jamming up and in, or trying to slide. If they prefer to slide, they must ensure they get up first… or the poor stats will continue to grow.

The history: Played 7; Broncos 4, Titans 3. The last time these two sides met was in last year’s finals when the Broncos upset the Titans 40-32 on the holiday strip.

At Suncorp Stadium the Broncos hold a 3-1 advantage, winning the past three in a row. If last year is anything to go by, expect a high-scoring affair, as all three encounters boasted 50 or more combined points.

Conclusion:
The Titans are rightful favourites but by no means are they certainties. The Broncos have a few big performances in them and Peter Wallace returning certainly helps.

They will need to stiffen up in defence again if they are to cause an upset – but it can be done.

But at the end of the day, the Gold Coast squad should have the class to find a way to win. They were rusty and tired-looking at times against the Knights, but still got the job done. They are the safe bet.

Match officials: Referees – Shayne Hayne & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Phil Haines; Video Ref – Steve Clark.

Televised: Live – Channel Nine 7.30pm (Qld), delayed 9.30pm (NSW); Fox Sports – Delayed 1am.