Broncos v Wests Tigers Preview

Broncos v Wests Tigers
Suncorp Stadium
Friday 7.35pm

Once upon a time (in 2002) a famous ‘baby Broncos’ team travelled to Campbelltown and humiliated a near full-strength Wests Tigers outfit during an Origin series.

But these days, the Origin depletion for Brisbane is far less severe and as such they can still be expected to compete, and perhaps win, this important clash against a Wests Tigers side devoid of a state rep, but with a few injuries.

After taking care of the Eels last weekend the Broncos return home to Suncorp Stadium in sixth place on the NRL ladder and with the Tigers in their sights.

In third, but just two competition points ahead, the Wests Tigers are licking the burns the Dragons inflicted on them last week.

This game could be a defining moment in the season for both sides, as a win for the Tigers would give them great impetus to remain in the top four, while a Broncos win could move them into the home finals zone (or at least very close).

On the other side of the coin, losses for both teams see them fall significantly backwards. The Tigers would be out of the top four and the Broncos potentially out of the top eight.

The sting of the embarrassing loss back in 2002 still lingers around the Tigers’ camp, even though no-one involved was playing back then.

Every year it gets a mention, and while the Broncos are only missing Darren Lockyer, Sam Thaiday and Israel Folau this season, it is still a young Brisbane side they should be able to beat.

The Broncos’ trio are replaced by Corey Norman at five-eighth, Ben Te’o at centre and Ashton Sims in the second row. Nick Kenny will also start at prop, shifting Lagi Setu to second row.

The new pair on the bench is Scott Anderson and Josh McGuire.

The Wests Tigers remain without a recognised halfback and have selected Daniel Fitzhenry in the jersey this week. This pushes Benji Marshall back to five-eighth, Blake Asyhford back to centre and Geoff Daniela onto the wing to replace the injured Beau Ryan.

The bench has mass changes, with Mark Flanagan and Junior Moors gone and four new faces in Andrew Fifita, Liam Fulton, Mitch Brown and Nathan Waters.

Watch out Broncos: The Wests Tigers will attack from anywhere – and with stats on their side, they will almost certainly look to shift the ball from within their half this week.

The Tigers have scored more tries from over halfway than any other side in the NRL. On 15 occasions, which is more than one a match, they have gone from long range for four points. The Broncos have conceded 11 tries from this distance, making them the worst team in the NRL.

You can be sure the visitors will let the ball sing a fair bit.

Watch out Wests Tigers: No-one can replace the legend Darren Lockyer but young Corey Norman is a budding star and needs to be paid some respect. The last time he filled in for Lockyer the Broncos belted the Rabbitohs and Norman had a blinder.

On that day he ran for 176 metres, had nine tackle-breaks, a try assist, made three line-breaks and 15 tackles (missing none). He was also error-free.

If the Wests Tigers assume he’ll be a back seat passenger to Peter Wallace, they’ll get burned.

Where it will be won: This match is all about line-breaks and converting them to points.

The Broncos are the second most prolific line-breakers in the NRL but are also the worst in the NRL at conceding line-breaks. They have posted 79 of their own but conceded 81 this year.

The Wests Tigers are a little behind with 61 line-breaks but when they get through, they invariably score – unlike the Broncos. Benji Marshall could have a touch football-style field day in this match, provided Keith Galloway and Bryce Gibbs get the team rolling forward first. But the Broncos youngsters can also find a way through and if the Wests Tigers’ scramble defence is poor, they’ll be staring at a points deficit early.

With their number one line-break weapon in Folau missing, the Broncos will rely heavily on his replacement Ben Te’o (nine line-breaks) and fullback Josh Hoffman (eight line-breaks) but the Tigers should be aware every Bronco barring Mitchell Dodds, Nick Kenny, Josh McGuire and Ashton Sims has busted through at least once this year.

For the Tigers, Chris Lawrence and Lote Tuqiri (returning to Suncorp for the first time since 2002) are the main men with nine line-breaks each. Only Keith Galloway, Nathan Waters and Todd Payten haven’t pushed through the line this season.

Whichever side shuts down the breaks conceded and finishes off the ones they will no doubt get, will emerge the victor.

The history:
Played 17; Broncos 13, Wests Tigers 3, drawn 1. The Broncos have won six of the past eight between the clubs, including four on the trot. Two points and a single point decided the past two encounters respectively.

At Suncorp Stadium the Broncos lead 4-2, with the Tigers last getting success on the ground in 2006. Brisbane haven’t been defeated in consecutive home games since August 2007.

Conclusion: The loss of Origin stars tips the balance away from the home-side Broncos and into the laps of the Wests Tigers. They should be good enough to get over the top of Brisbane but this is no certainty.

If Brisbane can stay physical and committed to the cause, they can frustrate the Tigers who might push the envelope too far.

Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Jeff Younis & Ricky McFarlane; Video Ref – Sean Hampstead.

Televised: Channel Nine – Live 7.30pm; Fox Sports – Delayed 10pm.