Broncos v Dragons: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview Brisbane Broncos v St George Illawarra Dragons
Suncorp Stadium
Friday, 7.50pm 

It has been a strange four weeks of football for St George Illawarra and their fans, with a side that showed so much potential in the early weeks of the season now sitting in ninth position and on the precipice of finals oblivion. 

Promising wins against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles and Gold Coast Titans have given the Dragons hope, but they have continued to shoot themselves in the foot with losses to the last-placed Newcastle Knights and struggling South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

It now gets even harder for the Dragons, travelling to a venue where they haven't won since April 2009 to face a Brisbane Broncos side that boasts the most damaging attack in the competition and sits in second position on the ladder. 

Brisbane have scored outscored their opponents 86-10 over the past two matches, with the likes of Tautau Moga, Anthony Milford and Ben Hunt all hitting form at the right time of the year. 

Hunt faces a strange proposition this week as he takes on a Dragons side he will be playing for in 2018 after signed a contract with St George Illawarra earlier in the year. 

Hunt is again named at hooker for Brisbane in an unchanged side, but he is more than likely going to come off the bench with Sam Thaiday to start in the position. 

The Dragons have named the same 17 as they did for their last-start win over the Titans, with Leeson Ah Mau named to start and Tariq Sims to come off the bench. 

‌Why the Broncos can win: Over the past two rounds Brisbane have conceded the fewest metres by a large margin. This is down to the Broncos rushing up out of the line and shutting down opposition forwards before they have a chance to get going. It has been a deliberate ploy by Wayne Bennett since the injury to hooker Andrew McCullough and it is working wonders as teams struggle to work the ball down the field into attacking positions. This was obvious against the Cronulla Sharks last week, with Brisbane's forwards dominating a much larger pack. That caused the Sharks to make mistakes out of frustration and in response the Broncos piled on the points. Expect more of the same this week, with Brisbane's forward pack set to assert themselves early on in the contest. 

Why the Dragons can win: St George Illawarra need to win two of their next three games to secure a position in the competition's top eight and they will not want to go into the last round of fixtures needing a win to keep their season alive. It makes Friday's clash a game they simply must win as they look to prove to the rest of the competition that they deserve to play finals football. The Dragons have struggled for consistency over the past two months of football and there is no better time to fix this issue. Desperation and a must-win mindset can help St George Illawarra cause a huge upset, but they have to show they want it more.

 


The history: Played 36; Broncos 22; Dragons 14. In what is an ominous sign for St George Illawarra, Brisbane have won 11 of the last 12 and 13 of the last 15 games between the two sides. In fact, the Dragons have not beaten the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium in over eight years, with that victory coming in Round 4 of the 2009 season. Brisbane have kept the Red V to 12 points or less in their last four meetings, while Broncos utility Hunt has four tries in his last five games against his future club. 

What are the odds: Sportsbet reports eight times the amount of money on Brisbane compared to St George Illawarra. James Roberts has been the best backed in the first try-scorer market, while the only money taken on the Dragons seems to be at the line where they're receiving the points start. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au 

Match officials: Referee: Matt Cecchin; Assistant Referee: Gavin Reynolds; Touch Judges: Belinda Sleeman & Nick Beashel; Review Official: Ben Galea; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton. 

Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7.50pm; Fox League – Live coverage from 7.50pm. 

NRL.com predicts: The Dragons will be desperate but they will not be any match for a Brisbane side in great form. The Broncos' forwards are the form pack of the competition and there is nothing to say they won't continue that dominance on Friday night. Suncorp Stadium has been a graveyard for St George Illawarra in recent years and it will not get any better for Paul McGregor's men this week. Brisbane by 16 points.