Warriors v Broncos Preview

Warriors v Broncos
Mt Smart Stadium
Friday 8.05pm (NZ time)

Forget the All Blacks, they have already won everything this season – Auckland, the time has come to fill Mt Smart Stadium as the Broncos come to town to face the Warriors.

There hasn’t been a bigger match for the home side Warriors this season because the equation is now simple – win here and the finals beckon. Lose and the season will go down to the wire, with a road trip to Parramatta.

After both sides fell last weekend their position in the top eight is precarious, but still in their own hands.

The Warriors are seventh, the Broncos eighth, so winning both games will get them in – but losing creates a different scenario.

If the Broncos win they can get as high as sixth at the end of the round but a loss could drop them as low as 11th.

For the Warriors, a win would send them to sixth (fifth if Manly and the Roosters played out a rare draw) while a loss could see them drop to ninth.

The home side will miss Micheal Luck from lock after a horrific leg gash against Manly, with Jacob Lillyman coming in.

Kevin Locke and Lewis Brown come back from injury, with Locke to start on the wing at Bill Tupou’s expense and Brown to start at second row, pushing Sione Lousi to the bench. Sam Rapira has earned a starting spot at prop, sending Ben Matulino to the reserves list, which has been extended by one thanks to the addition of Jesse Royal.

The Broncos have named the same side as last week, despite being thrashed by Newcastle. Darren Lockyer is still missing. Nick Kenny has been added as an 18th man.

Watch out Warriors: Discipline is going to be a huge issue in this match for the home side. So far in 2010 the Warriors have conceded 138 penalties to be the equal second worst team in the competition. It has put their defence under all sorts of unnecessary pressure.

The Broncos, on the other hand, are the cleanskins of the NRL with just 102 penalties conceded. If the Warriors allow the Broncos to endure a hefty advantage in this match they will find it hard to compete.
Brisbane doesn’t need extra field position to make a team pay, but they’ll gladly take it.  

Watch out Broncos: The Broncos might have the best leaper in the game in Israel Folau but the Warriors are the second best side in the NRL at scoring tries from kicks.

With 24 tries from the boot this season, the Warriors are behind only Penrith in these stakes and will put all sorts of pressure on the Broncos’ defence – especially given Brisbane have conceded 19 tries from kicks already this year.

Where it will be won: This game is going to come down to edge defence and defence from marker. The Warriors have 10 line-breaks from dummy-half this season (ranked fourth) while the Broncos have 13 (ranked second), showing both sides know when to take off from acting half.

The markers from both sides need to be aware of the scoot and react accordingly.

Brent Tate loves a dummy-half charge for the Warriors, and Ben Te’o is a Bronco who likes to take a scoot. The Warriors have scored five tries from dummy-half and conceded four, while the Broncos have scored eight but conceded just as many.

As for defence on the edges, it is no secret the Broncos love attacking the edges, even without Darren Lockyer. They have scored 24 tries on the left edge and 27 on the right while the Warriors have conceded 22 and 28 tries on the edges.

The home side might not be quite as prolific but with 16 tries on the left edge and 24 on the right, they too like to hit the fringes of the ruck.

Brisbane have conceded 20 tries on the left and 19 on the right.

The history: Played 26; Warriors 10, Broncos 16. The Warriors gave the Broncos an absolute hiding earlier this year (48-16), which gave them three wins from the past five against the Broncos.

But the Broncos not only lead the overall head-to-head but also the matches at this ground by 7-6. They took the lead with a 26-10 win in 2009, the last time these two teams met in Auckland.
 
Conclusion: Brisbane without Lockyer is a real worry, which gives the Warriors a slight edge here.

The Warriors were unlucky to go down to Manly at Brookvale and could easily bounce back with a big performance here. Manu Vatuvei was relatively quiet in his big match-up with ‘T-Rex’ Tony Williams last week so you can imagine ‘The Beast’ will have a massive input.

Defensively the Warriors have tightened up in the back half of the year and while Corey Norman is a solid youngster, he can’t unlock a defence like Lockyer can. The loss of Luck will stifle the defence a little but they should still be able to get the job done in front of what should be a massive crowd.

Match officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Tony De Las Heras; Sideline Officials – Steve Chiddy & Phil Haines; Video Ref – Tim Mander.

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