Broncos v Eels: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview Brisbane Broncos v Parramatta Eels
Suncorp Stadium
Thursday 7:50PM

It is not often teams play each other twice in the space of four weeks but that is the case for the Brisbane Broncos and the Parramatta Eels when they meet on Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium. 

Both sides will have Parramatta's 14-point win in Round 21 fresh in their minds, with the Broncos out for revenge after being outmuscled in a spiteful clash at ANZ Stadium. 

Parramatta's Kenny Edwards made headlines for his late shot on Jonus Pearson in that encounter, and the headlines continued in the days after the match when Eels centre Michael Jennings spoke out to the media about the Broncos' "dirty play". 

It forced Wayne Bennett to defend his men, with Brisbane's master coach describing Jennings's comments as "cheap talk".

All this sets the scene for a fiery match-up as both teams look to build momentum heading towards the finals. 

The Broncos have made one change to the side that defeated the St George-Illawarra Dragons by 12 points in Round 24, with Tevita Pangai Junior (hamstring) replaced by Jaydn Su'A on the bench. 

Parramatta have been forced into changes of their own due to injury and suspension. Will Smith will start at fullback for the injured Bevan French (hamstring), with Kenny Edwards starting for the suspended Manu Ma'u. David Gower and Frank Pritchard join the bench.


Why the Broncos can win: Brisbane's record at Suncorp Stadium this year has been impressive, winning nine of their 11 matches at Lang Park this season. It is the equal best home record in the competition, with Suncorp Stadium quickly becoming an intimidating fortress. The Broncos average almost 29 points per game at their Brisbane base this year, a massive eight points more than what they average away from home. Coupling this with the form of five-eighth Anthony Milford makes the Broncos a formidable opponent for Parramatta. Milford has been on fire of late, helping Brisbane surge towards the finals. Best on ground in his past two games, Milford will be looking to continue his purple patch and guide the Broncos to a fourth win a row. 

Why the Eels can win: History says no team can win the NRL premiership from outside the top four – Parramatta sit fifth. A loss to Brisbane on Thursday night would make it near impossible to finish fourth, with the Eels facing a slide down the ladder to sixth if results go against them. It could be argued that this match is the most important of Parramatta's year to date and a second win over the Broncos in a month would be the perfect way for Brad Arthur's men to announce themselves as the real deal. The Eels must take the same approach as they did in Round 21, with forward dominance again the key to defeating a Brisbane side high on confidence after winning three games in a row. Parramatta dominated the middle in that match, running for 242 metres more than the Broncos. If they can repeat that effort then they will be hard to beat. 

 

The history: Played 52; Broncos 31; Eels 20; The two teams met in Round 21 and it was Parramatta who got the chocolates, running out 28-14 winners at ANZ Stadium. Despite this recent success, the Eels have struggled against Brisbane of late, losing three of their past four against Bennett's men. As well as this, the Broncos have won their past two matches against Parramatta at Suncorp Stadium. Brisbane winger Corey Oates missed his side's clash with the Eels earlier in the year due to illness and he will be ready to take on a club he has a history of performing well against. Oates has four tries in his last two matches against the Eels, with these two outstanding performances including seven line breaks. 

What are the odds: Four times the dollars have been put on Brisbane compared to Parramatta in Sportsbet's head-to-head market. The Eels are holding 70 per cent of the money in handicap betting where they're receiving a handy points start but punters expect the Broncos to get the two competition points. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au

Officials: Referee: Ashley Klein; Assistant Referee: Adam Gee; Touch Judges: Belinda Sleeman & Tim Roby; Review Official: Luke Patten; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton. 

Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7:30PM; Fox League – Live coverage from 7:00PM. 

How we see it: It is hard to see Brisbane getting beaten on Thursday night. French and Ma'u will be hugely missed by Parramatta as both were ultra impressive in the Eels' victory over the Broncos last month. Brisbane being at home is a massive advantage and if Milford fires he is near unstoppable. Broncos by eight.