Date: Saturday 12th of September
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Home Team Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd 2 Corey Oates 3 Jack Reed 4 Justin Hodges (c) 5 Jordan Kahu 6 Anthony Milford 7 Ben Hunt 8 Sam Thaiday 9 Andrew McCullough 10 Adam Blair 11 Alex Glenn 12 Matt Gillett 13 Corey Parker Int: 14 Jarrod Wallace 15 Mitchell Dodds 16 Joe Ofahengaue 17 Kodi Nikorima
Away Team Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote 2 Kyle Feldt 3 Justin O’Neill 4 Kane Linnett 5 Antonio Winterstein 6 Michael Morgan 7 Johnathan Thurston (c) 8 Matthew Scott (c) 9 Jake Granville 10 James Tamou 11 Gavin Cooper 12 Ethan Lowe 13 Jason Taumalolo Int: 14 Rory Kostjasyn 15 John Asiata 16 Scott Bolton 17 Ben Hannant 18 Ray Thompson 19 Matthew Wright
Fans at Suncorp Stadium are set to witness a Queensland classic on Saturday night, as the second placed Brisbane Broncos will come up against their state rivals, the third placed North Queensland Cowboys, in the first week of the 2015 finals series.
The teams will be playing for more than just state pride on this occasion, as the victor will earn next week off and advance straight to the grand final qualifier, while the loser will be at risk of being eliminated from the competition next week.
Despite being placed at first and second respectively for the majority of the season, the Broncos and Cowboys have both slightly dropped off in form as of late, winning 2 out of their last 4 games.
The Cowboys have struggled to start games strongly this season, and even last week against the 14th placed Titans, they fell to a 12-0 lead in the first quarter of the game. Luckily for North Queensland, they are able to hit their stride and make a comeback eventually, as evident by the 42 unanswered points they put on the Titans to finish the match 42-12.
Although the Cowboys have proved time and time again that they are the comeback kings, they can’t afford to make a slow start in such a high stake game against the Broncos. Brisbane struggled against the Storm in Round 26, falling 15-8, however they have received a major boost with the return of halfback Ben Hunt, whose direction in attack was clearly missed against Melbourne. Alex Glenn will also return to the side from suspension, and Lachlan Maranta has been replaced on the wing by Jordan Kahu.
The Cowboys will also welcome the return of a gun Queensland half, as Michael Morgan is set to play his first match since suffering an injury against the Warriors in Round 24. Morgan’s return will add an extra layer to the Cowboys potent spine that already boasts attacking weapons Jonathan Thurston, Jake Granville, and Lachlan Coote.
Although much of the focus pre-game will be on the halves battle of Thurston and Morgan vs Hunt and Anthony Milford, both halves pairings will struggle to control the game unless their forward pack can lay a foundation for them to play upon.
Both forward packs possess a potent mixture of mobility and size, and mouth-watering battles such as Jason Taumalolo vs Corey Parker, Gavin Cooper vs Matt Gillet, and Matt Scott vs Sam Thaiday will ultimately determine which team will have the opportunity to utilise their devastating backlines.
Despite the Broncos being the firm favourites for this contest, the finals experience that the Cowboys possess, lead by the ever-composed Jonathan Thurston, may just be enough to give them the advantage against their big brother, who have players such as Milford that are yet to experience the pressure of a finals campaign.
Prediction Cowboys by 4