Blair concerned by Broncos fade-outs
In all the parallels drawn between the 2015 grand final and last week's rematch at Suncorp Stadium the one that stood out most was Brisbane's willingness to back their second-half defence, and Adam Blair says it has to stop.
Just like they did six months earlier, the Broncos took a handy buffer into the half-time break last Friday night and again the Cowboys came storming home.
Wave after wave of Johnathan Thurston-led Cowboys attacked flooded the Brisbane half and even though they scored just twice it could have been as many as four or five.
Ben Hunt's kicking game misfired as the Broncos struggled to get out of their own end and if not for a piece of individual brilliance from Anthony Milford and James Roberts' lightning-fast feet, the result may very well have been the same as the premiership decider.
The Broncos built their 2015 campaign on a resilient defence that continually repelled opposition attacks but with two less interchanges at their disposal this season Blair is adamant that if they continue to play 'rope-a-dope' that more often than not they will be knocked out.
"I think it has changed the game. It's harder this year with two less interchanges. Defensively it's taking its toll on us, especially in the back end of our second halves," Blair told NRL.com.
"We knew last year that we could rely on defence but it's harder this year.
"We used that really well and we still think we can defend our line for as many sets as we can, but we often forget that we need to play footy down the other end. We need to work on that, we can't really sit on our line and defend all game.
"Good teams will capitalise. It nearly happened on the weekend and the week before that it happened in Penrith.
"We sat on our line and defended the whole second half and it cost us the game. Those are the things we have to adapt to and try and change."
This Friday night the Broncos travel south to face a Titans team that itself has made a habit of stirring second-half comebacks.
Down 10-0 early against the Tigers in Round 3 before winning 30-18, the Titans trailed the Raiders 20-6 with only 15 minutes remaining last weekend before storming home to win 24-20.
Winning habits are always good ones to get into but back-rower Chris McQueen said giving up a start to the Broncos is one that is likely to prove fatal to their chances of winning.
"The last couple of games we've been lucky to get away with it but we certainly haven't played 80 minutes of football. We know we have to do that this week if we want to be competitive," said McQueen.
"The last two weeks we've given up a 10-point lead and managed to get our way back into the game but we certainly know against the Broncos that if you give up 10 points early in the game that it's going to be really tough to come back.
"We know we have to start faster than we have been."
Brisbane born but a Raiders fan from a young age, David Shillington goes into his first all-Queensland derby on Friday night in awe of the quality of football the Broncos and Cowboys both showed last weekend.
"It was exactly like the grand final, maybe even better, who knows," Shillington said.
"They're obviously the two best teams in the comp and they've got a great rivalry going there. I think every rugby league fan loved it let alone just the players who were out there.
"I know it will make the game tough for us this week because they will have that intensity from that game. That game was a higher standard than probably any other game this year so it will be a challenge for us to step up our intensity and try and match what they'll bring on the back of last week's game.
"Playing in Canberra for so long we never really had any local derbies like this one is on Friday night. It's a Friday night game against the Broncos; it doesn't get any better than that."