Titans v Broncos Preview

Titans v Broncos
Skilled Park
Friday 7.35pm

The battle of south-east Queensland gets personal this Friday night as Rivalry Round erupts with a blockbusting clash of major significance: big brother against little brother in a turf war that shapes to be epic in front of a massive crowd.

Both the Titans and Broncos are neck-deep in the battle for finals places and know every win and loss is particularly crucial from this point.

The home-side Titans are still fuming after their one-point loss to the Wests Tigers last weekend, as it was certainly one that got away and it took a 51-metre field goal to beat them. But the points are on the board and they have slipped to fifth on the ladder, giving up a top-four berth to the Roosters on percentages.

A win could be enough to get it back… they could even climb as high as third; however, a loss could see them sink as low as ninth, completely out of the finals zone.

They have remained loyal to the side that lost in Sydney, with the only change being former Bronco Steve Michaels added as an 18th man.

The Broncos are fresh from a bye but coincidentally also lost their last match to the Wests Tigers.

With their Origin players back in the line-up they look a much more formidable outfit.

Currently in eighth spot on the ladder, the Broncos are in the danger zone. A win can catapult them into the top four at fourth, but a loss is likely to see them fall out of the eight – and a heavy loss could potentially plummet them as low as 11th.

The side welcomes back Alex Glenn and Israel Folau in the centres, which pushes Matt Gillett to the bench and Gerard Beale out of the side.

Darren Lockyer returns for Corey Norman and Sam Thaiday slots into the second row at the expense of the off-contract Ashton Sims. Scott Anderson misses out also.

Watch out Titans: This is a game where the Titans need to enforce strict discipline or face the consequences. In a week where they were served with a breach notice for comments made towards sideline officials during the match against the Wests Tigers, and where hooker Nathan Friend was scrutinised for a possible head butt, they come up against the competition’s “cleanskins” in terms of penalties.

Having been penalised just 69 times so far, the Broncos are the most disciplined side in the NRL (although Corey Parker and Peter Wallace are repeat offenders with eight apiece).

On the other hand the Titans have heard the cold shrill of the whistle go against them 92 times this season. Friend has been nabbed 12 times and Mark Minichiello, who found himself in the sin bin last weekend, has been penalised 11 times. Anthony Laffranchi is also at double figures with 10.

If they get belted in the penalty count here, the Broncos will roll over the top of them with ease.

Watch out Broncos:
Scott Prince needed the run last weekend to blow a few cobwebs out and now is set for a big game on the big stage.

While quality players don’t need as much time to get into rhythm, Prince’s timing was just a fraction off against the Tigers and should be back to its best against the Broncos.

His troublesome hamstring limited his kicking game and without the ability to dominate the proceedings, he was a little lost at times. But with another week to get better and slip into the slightly different structure, he should be ready to explode. He has 11 try assists from 11 games this season and 12 line-break assists.

Where it will be won:
Defence. Both sides need to show improvement defensively in the run home if they are to be true contenders, and where better to start then right here?

The Broncos have leaked 21 fewer points than the Titans so far but they have a slightly worse effective tackle percentage. Both teams are poor in this area, with the Titans fourth last in the NRL and the Broncos third last.

The home-side Titans are ineffective on 15.8 per cent of their attempted tackles and the Broncos are a tad worse at 16 per cent ineffective. Brisbane has missed 609 tackles and added 352 ineffective, while the Titans have missed 597 tackles and added 308 ineffective. That’s up around 37 and 38 missed tackles for each team each game!

While they have countered for this somewhat thus far, the more tackles you miss, the greater the chance you will be chasing points.

It’s time for both sides to muscle up and be countered – or they won’t command much respect even if they do make the finals.

(Speaking of defence, Corey Parker needs just 20 more tackles to notch 500-plus tackles in seven of the past eight seasons.)

A final caution for the Titans – since the beginning of last season the Broncos have scored an average 29.5 points against their neighbours.

The history: Played 8; Titans 3, Broncos 5. The Broncos have claimed four of the past five against their little brother Titans, including a 28-6 win earlier this season.

The Gold Coast does have a slight edge at the venue, winning two of three at Skilled Park.  

Conclusion: The Broncos are rested and have their guns back, so they are a big chance of victory here against a Titans side that has lost two in a row and five of the past seven.

But in front of a packed home crowd and with so much on the line, the Titans will put up a hell of a fight.

This really is a close one to call, so don’t be afraid to lean either way.

Match officials: Referees – Jason Robinson & Matt Cecchin; Sideline Officials – Steve Chiddy & Michael Wise; Video Ref – Steve Clark.

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