Cowboys v Broncos Preview

Cowboys v Broncos
Dairy Farmers Stadium
Friday 7.35pm

The Broncos stunned everyone when they blasted the Cowboys off the park early in Round 1 and then held on for a famous victory with a team full of kids to take the sixth straight win over their North Queensland neighbours.

But looking back now the opening round result doesn’t look so surprising, considering those kids from the Broncos have blossomed into a great side… and the toilers in the Cowboys’ shirts have crashed and burned to what in normal circumstances would be a fight for the wooden spoon.

Despite the fact the Cowboys are out of the running for a finals berth, this match still shapes up as a cracker, as the boys from up north hate getting towelled up by the Broncos, even though it has happened a lot.

It should bring out the best in the struggling home side, while the Broncos might be a little battered and bruised following their win over the Dragons last Sunday.

Regardless of how sore they may or may not be, the Broncos know they must win this clash.

They currently sit in seventh spot on the ladder and while a win could push them as high as fifth spot, a loss could have them back to ninth and out of the finals zone.

Two wins from the final five might be enough to scrape into the eight but the team needs three from five to make a bird of it and this is the “easiest” match they have in the run home.

Both teams have named the same sides they ran out with last week, although the Cowboys have named Ben Harris as an 18th man to join the team beaten by the Panthers.

Shane Tronc plays for the Broncos for the first time against his old Cowboys team-mates.

Watch out Cowboys:
If the home side is going to compete they need to cut down on their error rate. The Cowboys have made the most errors in the competition this season, with 261 for the year, while the Broncos are third best with just 218 errors so far.

If the home side hands the ball to the Broncos they will get beaten; however, if they maintain an even share of possession they have the firepower to strike.

The Cowboys also need more discipline with the referees. They have lost their past four penalty counts and have been penalised 103 times compared to Brisbane’s 84. More alarmingly, they have conceded 22 tries in the set after a penalty this year, the most in the NRL.

Watch out Broncos: Johnathan Thurston has been quiet, mainly due to foot injuries in recent weeks, and as his game struggles to stay at the high standards he sets himself his frustration is becoming more and more evident.

But, with the Four Nations in his sights and the personal motivation of playing against his good mate Darren Lockyer, this shapes as a game he will lift for.

The fact the Broncos miss more tackles per match than any other side in the competition (37.6) has Thurston excited, as his bag of tricks and trademark show-and-go could really open up the visitors.

Where it will be won: Scramble defence. While the Broncos were great defensively against the Dragons last week, they are likely to come into this match a little jaded. This, their missed tackle rate and the attacking dynamos of Thurston, Matt Bowen, Willie Tonga and Willie Mason, add up to the Cowboys having some attacking success.

But while the Cowboys have no massive problems breaking the line, they do have issues converting their breaks to points, and are often shut down by good scramble. If the Broncos scramble well, they should be able to overcome the home side.

The Cowboys need to defend better, full stop; but scramble will be a huge part of this match. The Broncos will bust them, but if they can get back and help out, they’ll give themselves a chance.
 
Both sides have conceded multiple tries from over halfway this season (Brisbane 15, Cowboys 13), so this shapes as an end-to-end points fest.

The history: Played 28; Cowboys 4, Broncos 22, drawn 2. Brisbane have won six straight against the Cowboys, including a victory in Round 1. In the 15 matches played at Dairy Farmers Stadium the Broncos have won 12 games, the Cowboys two (and one draw).

The last time the Cowboys beat the Broncos was in 2007 and the last time they did it on home turf was 2006.

Tellingly, Brisbane enjoys a better record against the Cowboys (79.2 per cent) than against any other opponent.

Conclusion: Unless you are running dead last or thereabouts in your tipping competition you should be tipping the Broncos here. How they respond to their gritty defensive slog last Sunday is yet to be seen but even a shandy off their best they should still account for the Cowboys.

If ever the Cowboys were going to repay the faithful fans this year, this is the game – but it is still long odds.

Match officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials – David Abood & Gavin Reynolds; Video Ref – Tim Mander.

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