Two top four sides, the Broncos and the Storm will do battle on Friday night in Brisbane as both sides slug through a tough Origin period. Brisbane cemented third spot on the ladder after an impressive win against the Raiders in Canberra last Saturday while Melbourne remain first on the ladder after a narrow golden point loss to the Roosters, and travel to a ground they have had great success at recently.

Last Time Out

The Broncos travelled to the capital to take on the Raiders, a game that would prove the strength of Brisbane’s depth with Marshall and Nikorima teaming up in the halves. The Broncos struck first with Corey Oates scoring off a pass from Marshall, giving Brisbane an early 6-0 lead. The start was even between both sides, sharing numerous attacking opportunities. The Raiders ran in two straight tries with Jack Wighton and Jarrod Crocker scoring, to answer Brisbane’s opening try and led 12-6 after 20 minutes. One thing that was becoming clear was the similarity in both teams attacking play, and the level of intensity and pace on the ball. The first half ended with both sides trading tries, highlighted by a runaway try from Nick Cotric, and Brisbane kicking a late penalty to see the scores sit at 16-14 to Canberra. The Raiders were a different side in the second half, not finding their feet and failing to create any chances for themselves. Brisbane on the other hand took over the game, and slowly took back the lead as well as increasing it. The Broncos scored twice within the first 20 minutes of the second half, with Matt Gillett and front-rower Joe Ofahengaue scoring, to give Brisbane a 24-16 lead. Brisbane seemed to have closed the game out, until Joey Leilua’s try in the 68th minute sparked the Green Machine, and they went on a late surge to tie or possibly win the game. Brisbane however remained resilient through their terrific goal line defence, and scored in the final minute with Matt Gillett off a great pass from Ben Hunt to secure a vital road win. The Broncos were able to firmly move back into the top four, and showed how adding Benji Marshall to the side in 2017 has paid off for them during the Origin period.

The Storm played a special game against the Roosters in Adelaide, thin on star players and looking to gain a win against a title contender. The Roosters had numerous opportunities early on, and finally cracked Melbourne’s defence in the 16th minute with Mitch Aubusson scoring off a Mitchell Pearce pass. The Storm hit back just under 10 minutes later, with Josh Addo-Carr pouncing on a loose ball and streaking to the try line. This gave Melbourne momentum, and youngster Brodie Croft scoring minutes later gave the Storm a 12-6 lead. The Storm continued their dominance into the second half, with two more tries scored by Addo-Carr with a double, and Suliasi Vunivalu on the other side. Both men scored brilliant solo tries, giving Melbourne a 20-6 lead and comfortably gaining control of the game. The Roosters had been almost inexistent in the match, particularly without the services of their front rowers Dylan Napa and Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves for parts of the match, but once they re-joined, the Roosters immediately improved. Trading blows saw the scores jump out to 24-12 with 12 minutes left, and that was the point the game turned. The Roosters ran in two more tries to force golden point, with Michael Gordon adding the extras as the hooter sounded. Mitchell Pearce then stepped up four minutes into golden point, on an awkward angle, to kick the winning field goal and pull off a brilliant comeback win against the competition leaders. Melbourne’s heart-breaking loss sees them retain top spot on the ladder, but they will need to be in better form against another top four side this weekend.

Key Battle

With Marshall’s impressive play last week, and seeming to turn back the clock, his work stacking up against star-half Cooper Cronk will be both exciting and vital. Without Cronk in the Storm line-up last week, it was hard to get a good look at Melbourne up against another competition heavy-weight and fairly judge both sides, but this weekend up in Brisbane we are lucky to see it again. Cronk’s work in the halves has been an asset for over 10 years for the Storm, and his inter-play with Cameron Smith and Billy Slater has arguably formed the greatest big three in NRL history. As always his overall production is almost unmatched, and coming back into the line-up for the Storm will be a huge boost for the side.

Benji Marshall, not too long ago, was labelled the best player in the world over a couple of years, and after his fall with the Dragons it was hard to see Benji returning to his old self. The closest thing to it since his Tiger days was last Saturday in Canberra. Marshall was terrific for the entire game, and hardly put a foot wrong. His passing and kicking game were all top notch, as well as threatening the defensive line and drawing men in with is silky foot work. With Milford out, and both Hunt and Nikorima being in patchy form, Marshall is the man to step up for the Broncos.

Prediction

The Broncos performance against the Raiders was a pleasing one for fans, showing Brisbane’s potential during a tough time of the year. As much as Marshall and Hunt looked solid, the Storm will be too strong welcoming back their big four players, and their record at Suncorp Stadium is too good to ignore. Storm by 4

Squads

Broncos: 1. Jordan Kahu 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. David Mead 6. Benji Marshall 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Korbin Sims 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Adam Blair 11. Sam Thaiday 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh Mcguire 14. Alex Glenn 15. Tevita Pangai 16. Herman Essese 17. Ben Hunt 18. Joe Ofahengaue 19. Jai Arrow 20. Jaydn Su’a 21. Jonus Pearson

Storm: 1. Billy Slater 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. William Chambers 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cameron Munster 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Jesse Bromwich 9. Cameron Smith 10. Tim Glasby 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Tohu Harris 13. Dale Finucane 14. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 15. Slade Griffin 16. Kenny Bromwich 17. Joe Stimson 18. Mark Nicholls 19. Brodie Croft 20. Curtis Scott 21. Jordan McLean