Brisbane Broncos v Wests Tigers
Friday, September 19
Allianz Stadium, 5.15pm
Both these teams could have been accused of clocking off in Week One of the Finals Series and while the Wests Tigers were able to recover and record a 28-24 win over the Rabbitohs in their Elimination Final, the Broncos are now in sudden-death mode after letting a late lead slip against the Eels in Townsville.
The second-placed Broncos were well placed at 26-20 with less than 10 minutes remaining but two late tries to the Eels saw them advance to the Preliminary Final and send Brisbane into do-or-die mindset against the Tigers.
The Broncos have been boosted by the return of Jayden Nikorima on the bench while Jordan Drew, who scored two tries in his return from a knee injury last weekend, has been named in the centres despite suffering a minor ankle injury against Parramatta.
The Tigers raced out to a 16-0 lead against the Rabbitohs before finding themselves trailing 18-16 midway through the second half before tries to Watson Heleta and John Ogden propelled them into Week Two with a 28-24 victory.
Captain Manaia Cherrington is a welcome addition to the Tigers team at hooker, returning from a medial strain in place of Jeremy Marshall-King while Tyler Cassel's place on the bench has gone to Peter Ta'auso after Cassel copped a four-match suspension for a shoulder charge last weekend.
Mitchell Moses was a late inclusion in the team that defeated South Sydney last Friday and will again turn out at fullback against the Broncos.
Broncos: 16 wins, seven losses, one draw (2nd)
Wests Tigers: 15 wins, eight losses, one draw (6th)
Duncan Paia'aua (Broncos) v Te Maire Martin (Wests Tigers)
A classy No.6 who has signed to play rugby with the Queensland Reds in 2015, Paia'aua has formed a lethal combination with halfback Ashley Taylor for the Broncos and was the creative force behind many of their attacking raids last week against the Eels. He is also responsible for much of the Broncos' kicking game and has been filling in as goal-kicker while Jayden Nikorima has been out injured. Although Mitchell Moses returns to the team, Te Maire Martin remains very much the go-to man for the Wests Tigers. Still just 18 years of age, Martin led the Holden Cup in both line-break assists and try assists and is blessed with plenty of speed.
2014 meeting: Wests Tigers 42 def. Broncos 10 (Rd 11)
Broncos coach Craig Hodges: "[The loss to Parramatta] was a very, very poor performance from us and we can't hide from that. The game was there to be won and regardless whether you win or lose, it's the performance that you measure yourself on each and every week and that was way below our standards. The opportunity was there for us to stand up as a team and do what we think we do best and we missed that opportunity and that's particularly disappointing. We just had a real lack of urgency which is a particular worry in finals; if you can't get excited to play finals I'm not sure what motivates you as a footballer. If we get beat on Friday night it will be because we're not good enough, it won't be through a lack of effort like last week. There has been a lot more urgency this week because you don't have that safety net, maybe subconsciously that was an issue for us last week but for all of us left in the competition now there's no safety net, you win or your season's over."
Wests Tigers coach Andrew Webster: "Getting Manaia back is great. He's been a big part of our season and made the Holden Cup Team of the Year and he's certainly one of those players you want in your team at this time of year. Jeremy Marshall-King did a great job replacing I think the best hooker in the competition and our two front-rowers, Jordan Grant and Dallas Graham, have just been exceptional in leading us. A real find for me at the moment is Andrew Kazzi. He comes off the bench and he's got so much enthusiasm and line speed and all he wants to do is help the team and he actually is a typical finals footballer. We've spoken a lot about our preparation needing to stay the same but we also realise that when we're on the field finals footy is a little different with the lift in intensity and you've got to make sure that you lift with it. I'm sure they all enjoy the season but I can see a real difference in how happy they are playing this time of year. The start last week was great (the Tigers led Souths 16-0) and we've done that to a few teams and we're at our best when we do that."
Broncos: 1. Kodi Nikorima, 2. Paul Byrnes, 3. Tom Opacic, 4. Jordan Drew, 5. Jack Tuttle, 6. Duncan Paia’aua, 7. Ashley Taylor, 8. Aaron Rockley, 9. Jayden Berrell, 10. Joe Ofahengaue, 11. Brett Greinke, 12. Brendon McBryde, 13. Jai Arrow. Interchange: 14. Jayden Nikorima, 15. George Fai, 16. Ajuma Adams, 17. Alex Barr, 18. Kalolo Saitaua.
Wests Tigers: 1. Mason Farrell, 2. John Tohi, 3. Watson Heleta, 4. Delouise Hoeter, 5. John Ogden, 6. Te Maire Martin, 7. Eli Levido, 8. Dallas Graham, 9. Manaia Cherrington (c), 10. Jordan Grant, 11. Salesi Funaki, 12. Lamar Liolevave, 13. Andrew Kazzi. Interchange: 14. Hala Masila, 15. Peter Ta'auso, 16. Sione Alofi, 19. Matthew Lodge, 24. Daniel Rakvin.