Titans v Broncos: Origin gives young guns their chance
Little Brother got the better of Big Brother when the Titans upset the Broncos 26-14 in round four at Suncorp Stadium, and there's a good chance they could complete a 2-0 regular season sweep on Sunday, despite the absence of Queensland Origin reps Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace.
The fact Brisbane are also without four Origin stars makes it a pretty even contest on paper and puts extra responsibility on experienced campaigners Darius Boyd and Sam Thaiday to lead the way for the Broncos, while axed Maroons utility Anthony Milford should also be keen to prove a point.
The Broncos pulled off a great escape last week, scoring late tries to snatch a 26-22 win over Canberra. Coach Wayne Bennett will demand a more complete 80-minute effort on Sunday, knowing any loss at this stage of the season is potentially disastrous.
Of all the teams in the bottom eight, the Titans are probably playing the best football, and the presence of Ryan James after he was released by the Blues will give them a huge boost.
The Titans have won their past two games – both on the road – and are playing with more confidence now than they have at any other stage this season. That's a dangerous situation for every top-eight team they face over the final nine rounds.
Match: Titans vs Broncos
Round 17 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium
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Key match-up: It's no coincidence that the Titans have won their past two games with good performances from halfback Ash Taylor. He has all the skills and will be relishing his head-to-head battle with Milford, especially with Arrow and Wallace on Origin duty. Milford will welcome the challenge and be keen to make a statement after being dropped from the Queensland team for Origin III.
For the Titans to win: While Taylor must continue to provide direction and scoring opportunities, the steady play of his halves partner AJ Brimson has also been integral in the Titans' improved performances. If experienced back-rower Kevin Proctor can inspire the forwards to deliver, Brimson and Taylor have the ability to cause havoc.
For the Broncos to win: Just like the Titans will rely heavily on their halves, Brisbane need Milford and Kodi Nikorima to show why they are representative players. The Broncos can't afford to start slowly like they did against the Raiders. Boyd and Thaiday have to provide their veteran leadership in what is a crucial game for the eighth-placed Broncos.
Titans stat attack: Halfback Ash Taylor leads the NRL with 16 try assists, two clear of Roosters five-eighth Luke Keary. The Titans will have to find others to make up for the 365 metres that Maroons pair Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace made between them last week.
Broncos stat attack: Can the Broncos put a huge dent in the finals hope of a second side in as many weeks? Last week they beat the Raiders to jump six point clear of ninth. This week they can move eight points ahead of the Titans by beating Garth Brennan's team.
And another thing: On the same day he turns 24, the Queensland team that Anthony Milford was axed from will host NSW in game three of an Origin series the Maroons have already lost. Some say his sacking was deserved, others say he's a scapegoat. Regardless, this is a very important week for 'Milf' and the Broncos and it'll be intriguing to see how he handles his controversial axing.
Gold Coast Titans v Brisbane Broncos, Sunday 4.10pm Cbus Super Stadium
Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Dale Copley, 4 Brenko Lee, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 AJ Brimson, 7 Ashley Taylor, 17 Moeaki Fotuaika, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Ryan James (c), 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Will Matthews, 13 Keegan Hipgrave
Interchange: 14 Mitch Rein, 15 Morgan Boyle, 16 Konrad Hurrell, 18 Leilani Latu
In a late change for the Titans, prop Jack Stockwell is out, with Moeaki Fotuaika moving into the starting side. Leilani Latu will (No.18) will start the match on the bench. Stockwell and Ryan Simpkins were the two players dropped from the squad on game day. With prop Jarrod Wallace and lock Jai Arrow called into the Queensland team, Will Matthews moves from the bench to the starting pack while Morgan Boyle and Konrad Hurrell get recalled on the bench. Five-eighth AJ Brimson has been named for the Queensland under-20s and could end up playing three games in eight days if he does not withdraw from next Wednesday's Origin curtain-raiser. Kane Elgey and Brandan Elliott drop off the extended bench.
Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Jonus Pearson, 17 Kotoni Staggs, 4 Jordan Kahu, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 11 Alex Glenn, 10 Sam Thaiday, 15 Tevita Pangai jnr, 12 Jayden S'uA, 13 Joe Ofahengaue
Interchange: 9 Jake Turpin, 14 Patrick Mago, 16 Korbin Sims, 19 David Fifita
In a host of changes made an hour before kick-off, Kotoni Staggs (No.17) moves into the starting side at centre, Alex Glenn (No.11) will start the game at hooker and Jayden S'uA reverts back to the second row after having been listed in the centres 24 hours out from game time. After being named at hooker on Tuesday, Jake Turpin will now start the match on the bench. Sam Tagataese and Sam Scarlett were the two players dropped from the squad an hour out from kick-off.
Head-to-head: Played 24; Broncos 18 wins, Titans 6 wins
Previous result: Titans won 26-18 at Suncorp Stadium in round 4
Points per game: Titans 19.7; Broncos 19.6
Points conceded per game: Titans 24.5; Broncos 22.3
Televised: Live on Nine, Fox League