Brisbane Broncos v Gold Coast Titans
Tough love will be on the agenda on Friday night as Brisbane look to snuff out any further signs of resurgence from baby brother the Gold Coast after their surprise victory over premiers Manly last round.
It’s a battle of second versus second last, with the Broncos kicking back over the Representative Round following their fifth straight win over the Raiders which saw them retain their position nipping at the heels of the unbeaten Melbourne Storm.
Meanwhile The Titans coach John Cartwright enjoyed some welcome respite following the Titans’ second win for 2012 in the hostile surrounds of Brookvale Oval. The Gold Coast gave their fans glimpses of what they are capable of in both attack and defence – but they’ll need a franchise-best effort if they’re to match motors with the Broncos in their backyard. Their task has been made even more difficult following the suspension of hard-working lock Ashley Harrison after his high tackle on Manly’s Vic Mauro last round.
It’s all smiles for Broncos coach Anthony Griffin though, with the side welcoming back linchpin playmaker Peter Wallace after injury. The halfback’s return sees Ben Hunt revert to the interchange with Kurt Baptiste dropping out of the 17.
Meanwhile in Titans changes, Nate Myles shifts from prop to lock to cover for Harrison’s unavailability, with Luke Douglas promoted to start in the front row. Matthew White and Phil Graham are the new faces on the bench.
Expect a high-scoring affair – seven of the past eight games have featured more than 30 points scored.
Footnote: Justin Hodges has tasted defeat at Suncorp Stadium just once since 2009!
Watch Out Broncos: Greg Bird always runs into form in the lead-up to Origin and he also likes to leave his stamp up against the best players. Playing for a struggling team Bird leads all second-rowers for hit-ups and territory (17.5 for 147.5 metres a match) and has 16 tackle busts and two line-breaks to his name. The Blues hopeful added 124 metres for Country last week and was a dynamo last time these sides met, making 20 hit-ups and 153 metres plus two offloads. He’ll provide plenty of mongrel going head to head with Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker and Alex Glenn and his enthusiasm could lift his team-mates.
Halfback Scott Prince is growing in confidence and cannot be underestimated. Despite his side totalling the second-fewest points each week (14), Prince has stats to rival the best in the league – his eight try assists are the second most by a No.7 and he’s also provided five line-break assists and three line-breaks of his own.
Danger Sign: Should the Broncos ignore rookie five-eighth Aidan Sezer they’ll do so at their peril. The 20-year-old Emerging NSW Blues member scored a stunning solo try running to the line against the Sea Eagles, with a killer left-foot sidestep shedding the defence. He’s capable of even bigger things.
Watch Out Titans: If the Broncos’ forwards lay a platform early and start rolling down the field with ease it could signal a long night for the Titans. Brisbane rank second in key attacking categories including metres gained (1426), line-breaks (5.3) and tackle-breaks (36.7). Meanwhile the Titans average the fewest line-breaks (three).
In particular Gold Coast need to halt the go-forward of Corey Parker and Sam Thaiday, who made a combined 239 metres last time the sides met. Also, fullback Josh Hoffman must be contained – he’s averaging 169 metres and added 174 metres from 16 runs last outing against John Cartwright’s side.
Kicks remain a concern for the Titans – they are defusing just 11 per cent of cross-field bombs and have conceded six tries to kicks. Brisbane have scored seven tries off the boot.
Danger Sign: After peppering the Titans’ left-edge defence with short balls for Sam Thaiday and Ben Hannant, watch for halfback Peter Wallace to vary the play and grubber behind the tacklers for Corey Norman or Josh Hoffman. Jamie Lyon scored a soft try against the Titans this way two weeks ago and Norman scored for the Broncos against the Raiders last round too.
Justin Hodges v Jamal Idris: A mouth-watering duel between two of the strongest-running centres in the game, with Hodges leading his position for tackle busts (31) – although Idris has a better game rate of nearly five a match from just three outings so far!
Man mountain Idris proved too tough for the Sea Eagles’ defence last round, scoring his third try from as many games and making two line-breaks from only four runs, but he’ll find things a little harder against Hodges who is one of the best one-on-one defensive centres in the game (0.9 misses and 0.6 ineffective each week). Plus, Idris can expect to be the target of more than a few attacking forays, with Hodges churning out 138 metres each week and ranking second in the comp for offloads (20). He scored in both games against the Titans last year. In defence Idris is making just 2.3 tackles a match – and is missing 1.7 a game. Clearly the game could be won – or lost – out wide.
Where It Will Be Won: Completions and errors. These sides struggled in both departments the last time they met (see below); whichever team manages the basics better on Friday night will likely get on the front foot. To date both coaches would be disappointed with their charges’ error sheets, with the Titans making the fourth most (12.7) and the Broncos the seventh most (11.7). The Broncos are averaging a fair 75.5 per cent for their completions (fifth best) but the Titans are doing themselves few favours with a 69.5 per cent rate.
The History: Played 11; Broncos 8, Titans 3. The Broncos have won seven of the past eight, including the past five straight. The Broncos hold a 5-1 advantage at Suncorp Stadium.
The Last Time They Met: The Broncos beat the Titans 30-10 in a mistake-riddled clash at Suncorp Stadium in Round 19 last year.
Brisbane drew first blood when Sam Thaiday charged over in just the third minute before the Titans hit back almost immediately with captain Scott Prince throwing a superb 15-metre cut-out pass to winger Steve Michaels who plunged over in the left corner. Brisbane regained the lead on the half hour thanks to a show of Herculian strength from halfback Peter Wallace, who managed an improbable offload with Justin Hodges the eventual beneficiary on the right fringe. But then the Titans received a stroke of luck: a Scott Prince pass hit centre Bodene Thompson on the shoulder, with winger David Mead cleaning up the spoils and pushing through the distracted Broncos defence for a 10-all scoreline at the break.
Three unanswered Broncos tries in the second 40 – including a back-to-back double by Jharal Yow Yeh – secured the contest.
Just 30 seconds after the resumption Darren Lockyer sliced through from first receiver, lofting a pass to his winger who raced 50 metres to score. The pair combined again in the 68th minute when Lockyer hoisted a towering bomb from 40 metres out that drifted towards the right sideline; Yow Yeh snatched ball from the grasp of Titans fullback Luke Capewell 10 metres out and strolled over for a 24-10 lead.
Lockyer added his third try assist of the evening just minutes from fulltime, dabbing a centre-field grubber into the in-goal for Josh Hoffman to score.
The Broncos made 13 errors on the night and completed their sets at just 69 per cent – but this was still better than the Titans’ 15 errors and 63 per cent completions.
Match Officials: Referees – Jared Maxwell & Adam Devcich; Sideline Officials – Jason Walsh & Michael Wise; Video Referee – Pat Reynolds.
The Way We See It: The planets aligned for the Titans last round when they beat a lethargic Manly. The Broncos, the most stable side in the comp apart from the Storm, won’t afford them the same latitude. The Titans haven’t won the week after a break since 2009 and traditionally struggle against Queensland opponents, winning just eight of 21 games played. Our crystal ball shows Brisbane by 12 points.
Televised: Channel 9 – Live 7.30pm (Qld), delayed 9.30pm (NSW); Fox Sports 2 – Delayed 1am.
• Statistics: NRL Stats