Going down by one point is a habit that Brisbane seem to be grabbing onto of late.
Whilst some may claim that Brisbane will be out for revenge, others will hope they have moved on since having dropped the ball in the biggest game of the season. Others may look to the fragility of last weeks deja-vu revisit when the Broncos lost to the Panthers by the same amount of points as the Grand Final.
A minor hiccup from the Cowboys against the Eels may have cheered the Broncos faithful, but then they lost to the Panthers, which left a mark. Both teams are on two wins and one loss and this game has the potential for more drama than Shakespeare on Acid.
LAST TIME THEY MET
We all remember the last second try by the Cowboys and the missed kick that sent us into extra time, but last year we saw this game played also as a qualifying final at the same location. Whilst Brisbane took the game, it was only by four points and with Brisbane missing both Oates and Reed, they may need more than just home field advantage to keep the points.
This weeks game on Good Friday will feature the seventeen players that left ANZ Stadium with the Provan-Summons Trophy last year, that the Cowboys have now fielded the same side since winning the big prize is exceptional. Led by the Clive Churchill medalist, the Cowboys are a picture of stability. Now with the eight day break, the Cowboys should be rested and ready. The forwards would have appreciated the extra down time, as the new interchange rules are making the pack work harder than ever. Was fatigue a factor in the failure of the Broncos to protect their fast start. Was this a blue print into where the Broncos holes are going to appear.
When the Eels exposed the Cowboys by somehow reaching the line as the first pass was delivered, we saw some problems with Morgan and Thurston. Whilst the Broncos may not be blessed with this magic speed advantage, they are canny enough to look to pressure both these playmakers. But will this hard running empty their tanks and leave them exposed as the clock winds down. The double edge of a predicted warm evening and a demand to shut down the options may leave many forwards being less than able to defend as the last seconds tick by.
Both the Broncos and the Cowboys know that they need to be as high up on the table before the Origin series this year. To do that they need to take every game possible. Both this game and the return bout in round 11 will be crucial to both teams hopes of softening the blows that occur when they lose too many of their best players. This pressure, alongside the nightmares of losing the Grand Final at the last gasp should make for interesting times.
When two great sides go to war, I love it when the refs seem invisible. Set the tone early and evenly and then let the teams play some league.
JT by Three: Johnathan Thurston, Jason Taumalolo, and James Tamou all firing last week and reports that Tamou is once again happy with living in Townsville, we have seen some strong go forward as well as some solid protection from the big men for the best player in the game. With some time and space, it is always enjoyable to watch him reveal his craftsmanship.
The Broncos will be relying on the combinations that have worked well for them. Milford and Hunt had been strong for the first two rounds, and Parker rock solid. When you have Lachlan Maranta as your back up to come in on the wing, you know you have a quality side.
As with most weeks, this will be the forwards doing battle and as a pack this edge falls to the Cowboys.
The home side is hard to go past on a hot Autumn night, but will they go out to hard in some form of desperate redemption that will leave them exposed. The Cowboys are an 80 minute plus team who did not drop the ball last year and I do not see them doing so on Friday night.
Cowboys by 1.
Broncos: 1: Darius Boyd, 2: Greg Eden, 3: Jordan Kahu, 4: James Roberts, 5: Lachlan Maranta, 6: Anthony Milford, 7: Ben “I’ve got this” Hunt, 8: Josh McGuire, 9: Andrew McCullough, 10: Adam Blair, 11 Alex Glenn, 12: Matt Gillett, 13: Corey Parker, 14: Jarrod Wallace,
15: Sam Thaiday, 16: Jo Ofahengaue, 17: Kodi Nikorima
Cowboys: 1: Lachlan Coote, 2: Kyle Feldt, 3: Justin O’Neill, 4: Kane Linnett, 5: Antonio Winterstein, 6: Michael Morgan, 7: Johnathan Thurston, 8: Matthew Scott, 9: Jake Granville, 10: James Tamou, 11: Gavin Cooper, 12, Ethan Lowe, 13: Jason Taumalolo, 14: Rory Kostjasyn, 15: John Asiata, 16: Scott Bolton, 17: Ben Hannant.