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PREVIEW: Gold Coast Titans vs Brisbane Broncos

If this game was being advertised based on pre-season expectations, it would be the wooden spoon favourites versus the premiership favourites, however due to the Titans surprisingly strong start to the season, their local derby with the Broncos is now billed as a top four clash. The little brother-big brother relationship between the two sides has always brought hype to this game, and James Robert’s controversial move from the Titans to the Broncos over the off-season has added even more fire to the M1 derby.

Titans five-eight Tyrone Roberts has been ruled out of the clash with a minor knee injury, with coach Neil Henry to make a decision as to whether they should hand 22-year old Cameron Cullen his NRL debut, or switch lock Greg Bird to the play making role. The Broncos will field their full strength line up, with outside backs Corey Oates and Jack Reed making their returns from injury.

Last Time Out
The Titans pulled off another upset against the Canberra Raiders, winning 24-20 in the nation’s capital. The Titans came back from a 20-6 deficit with just 15 minutes remaining, with a controversial try to centre John Olive securing the victory in the final minutes. They displayed impressive fortitude to stay in the match and fight back, despite most fans expecting the game to be over with 15 minutes remaining.

The Broncos earned some redemption in the Grand Final replay against the Cowboys, with an Anthony Milford field goal in extra time topping off what many have described as one of the best club games in years. Brisbane were at their lethal best, as ex-Titans flyer James Roberts had his best game in his new colours, combining with Milford for multiple mouth-watering line breaks and tries. The Broncos were outscored by their rivals in terms of tries, however Wayne Bennet’s tactic of always taking the two points for a penalty allowed them to stay in the contest.

Key Battle
If the Titans are to have any chance at victory on Friday night, Josh Hoffman will have to be at the top of his game in order to stop James Roberts. Hoffman has made the full time switch from fullback to left centre this season, and there is no denying that his defence has been shaky out wide, as he has let his opposite man get around him on multiple occasions already this year. His defence will need to be top notch against the Broncos, otherwise Roberts, who is renowned as the fastest player in the game, will have a field day against him. Roberts will be especially fired up considering the controversial circumstances in which he left the Gold Coast, therefore it is vital that Hoffman can contain his former team mate, otherwise the Titans can kiss their chance at victory goodbye.

The Titans are set to draw their biggest crowd in years, and with the support behind them they will be ready to put up a valiant fight against their local rivals, however the Broncos should have too much fire power across the park. The Titans left-edge of Hoffman, Zeb Taia, and rookie Ashley Taylor are still gelling defensively, and they may struggle to contain the speed and unpredictability of Roberts, Ben Hunt and Matt Gillet on the Broncos right edge.

Final Score: Brisbane Broncos 28 Gold Coast Titans 16

1 David Mead 2 Anthony Don 3 Josh Hoffman 4 John Olive 5 Nene Macdonald 6 Tyrone Roberts 7 Ashley Taylor 8 David Shillington 9 Nathan Friend (c) 10 Ryan James 11 Zeb Taia 12 Chris McQueen 13 Greg Bird. Interchange 14 Luke Douglas 15 Agnatius Paasi 16 Leivaha Pulu 17 Daniel Mortimer 18 Eddy Pettybourne 19 Cameron Cullen 20 Kierran Moseley.

1 Darius Boyd 2 Corey Oates 3 Jack Reed 4 James Roberts 5 Jordan Kahu 6 Anthony Milford 7 Ben Hunt 8 Josh McGuire 9 Andrew McCullough 10 Adam Blair 11 Alex Glenn 12 Matt Gillett 13 Corey Parker (c). Interchange 14 Jarrod Wallace 15 Sam Thaiday 16 Joe Ofahengaue 17 Kodi Nikorima.

Brock joined NothingButLeague in 2015 and is an aspiring sports journalist who supports the Gold Coast Titans.

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