Broncos v Titans: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro preview: Broncos v Titans
Suncorp Stadium

Friday, 7.50pm

Former US college football coach Kyle Flood said in 2015 that a great sporting rivalry needed three things: Geography, recruitment and competitive games.

Unfortunately when it comes to the rivalry between the Broncos and Titans in recent years, that last element has been sorely lacking.

While the more long-standing rivalry between Brisbane and North Queensland has elevated itself in the past three years to a status that is almost unrivalled in the modern era, the Titans are on the end of a five-game losing streak that has threatened to make any sense of rivalry redundant.

The atmosphere is one of a big brother picking on a little brother who still hasn't worked out a way around big bro gripping his head in his hand and holding him at arm's length while the younger sibling flails wildly.

It's almost to the point of being patronising as the Broncos view the Titans' challenge to their throne as the dominant team in the region as 'really cute'.

But if there is one thing that can reignite a rivalry it is bitterness and there is plenty of ill feeling in the Gold Coast camp about the way they exited last year's finals series at Brisbane's heavy hand.

The final scoreline read a decisive 44-28 to the Broncos but the feeling among Gold Coast players is that absolutely every call that could go the Broncos' way did.

They view Friday night as the opportunity to right a wrong but given their horror injury toll to start the season and Brisbane's encouraging opening to their 2017 campaign they will again head up the M1 as rank outsiders.

The big news out of the Broncos this week is Kodi Nikorima being named in the No.7 jersey that became vacant due to the hamstring injury suffered by Ben Hunt against the Roosters last week and the return of Corey Oates on the wing.

The Titans have named four former Broncos in their 21-man squad and also welcome back hooker Nathan Peats for the first time this year.

This rivalry is in need of a resurrection; perhaps Good Friday is the perfect time to start.

Why the Broncos can win: The Broncos knew they had a tough start to the season, and they played like it. Every set seemed to have its own burden to carry and every dropped ball a body blow that would take time to recover from. Four matches in succession were decided by three points or less until last Thursday night when they cut loose against the Roosters to devastating effect. After registering 11 line breaks in the first five weeks Brisbane doubled that tally against the Roosters with their 25 line-engaged runs nine more than their next best (16 against Sharks in Round 1). Given the defensive frailties the Titans have shown on occasion this year a similarly expansive game-plan on a fast Suncorp track could see the Broncos have a field day.

Why the Titans can win: If this showdown plays out to be a point-scoring free-for-all then the Titans can take the field confident that they can match it with anyone. Only the Raiders and Dragons have scored more than the 24 four-pointers the Titans have posted in the first six weeks and even in heavy defeat last week showed they can post tries with next to no possession and territory. Last week's 16 points against Canberra was the Titans' lowest tally of the season to date and with Nathan Peats back to provide support to the halves they will fancy their chances despite Brisbane conceding 20 points only once this season.

 


The history: Played 21; Broncos 16; Titans 5. After a bright start to the south-east Queensland showdown for the Titans it's been all Brisbane in recent years. The Titans upset their more fancied northern neighbours twice in their opening three meetings but since then the Broncos have won 15 of 18 clashes, including the last five on the trot. The Titans haven't defeated the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium since the first time the two sides met in Round 5, 2007.

What are the odds: Broncos $1.27, Titans $3.78. Sportsbet has taken less money on Gold Coast than any other side in a game this season. Punters are all over the Broncos to win 13-plus and cover the line, which seems to be increasing every day. Darius Boyd is the most popular option in the first try-scorer market. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.

Match officials: Referee: Grant Atkins. Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton. Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Belinda Sleeman. Review Official: Luke Patten. Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.

Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 7.30pm; Fox Sports – Live from 7.30pm

NRL.com predicts: Despite the loss of Hunt the Titans will need an Easter miracle of their own to get the better of Brisbane on Friday. Although the squad looks stronger on paper there are still doubts over a number of Gold Coast players and they need to be at full strength to challenge an outfit with so many established stars. Brisbane's five-game winning streak over Gold Coast is about to stretch to six. Broncos by 14 points.