Round Three of the NRL Telstra Premiership sees the Wests Tigers host the Brisbane Broncos at Campbelltown Stadium, on Friday the 23rd of March at 8:05 pm AEDT. The Tigers have started the year off two from two, and will play their first home game against a Brisbane side who managed to defeat the Cowboys last week to get their season off and running.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Tigers traveled to Melbourne to face the defending premiers, in Billy Slater’s 300th game. The Tigers kept the Storm scoreless in the first half with gritty defence, and had a 6-0 advantage thanks to three penalty goals from Esan Marsters. Both sides continued to slug out an error-ridden game in the second half, with the first try finally coming in the 63rd minute from Suliasi Vunivalu in the right corner from the first play of the set. Ivan Cleary’s side though did not give up, and a Ben Matulino offload set up Luke Brooks for the game winning try. The Tigers were very impressive defensively, but ended up giving away 18 penalties which will need to be limited in order to compete with the Broncos on Friday.
The Broncos hosted the Cowboys for another Queensland derby that was sure to deliver. The Cowboys were gifted chances and territory early on, and managed to convert these into points and take an 8-0 lead after seven minutes. The Broncos though managed to find their groove, and with freedom to run they scored three unanswered tries to take a solid 18-8 lead at the break. In the second half, the Cowboys scored twice either side of a Kodi Nikorima try to bring the gap back to four, and with less than two minutes to go Scott Bolton was presented with a golden chance to score the match winning try. Unfortunately he collided with the posts and the ball popped out giving possession back to the Broncos. They hung on for a 24-20 win, and another Queensland derby delivered plenty of late drama for the fans.
Corey Thompson will remain at fullback as Tui Lolohea is out for another week with a knee injury. Elijah Taylor is out with a hamstring injury and will be replaced by Matt Eisenhuth.
A broken jaw to Jordan Kahu sees Tom Opacic move into the centres. Although Jack Bird currently sits on the reserves in the Broncos named side, he has been rumoured to make an appearance which will likely be off the bench.
The Tigers came into the season as a certain bottom eight team, and regardless of my personal opinion of what they can produce, there is a long way to go until they are a premiership contender. But that has not stopped them from having a great start to the year, with two upset wins pushing them into this week full of confidence. Their defence in particular has been impressive, and the likes of Benji Marshall, Luke Brooks, Corey Thompson and Esan Marsters have had great starts to 2018.
The Broncos uncharacteristically were outplayed and out enthused against the Dragons in Week One. They needed to improve on every facet of their game to have a chance against the Cowboys, and they did just that. A strong showing from the halves has settled a few nerves and the Broncos look to be back on track. The last matchup between both sides came in Round 11 of 2017, with the Broncos running out 36-0 winners at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. The game was a one sided affair, with the Broncos remaining in the top four afterwards.
Benji Marshall’s return to the Tigers has brought out some good form in the Kiwi as well as the team as a whole, and with Anthony Milford having a man of the match performance in Week Two to inject some confidence in his play, there is an exciting battle brewing between the number sixes.
Marshall’s game management skills have been on full display so far this year, highlighted by his kicking game continuously pressuring Melbourne’s defence last week. His experience and leadership can bring only good things to Luke Brooks who is looking to finally live up to his expectations and it seems to be working so far. Milford on the other hand has come under fire with inconsistent performances for the Broncos since signing his big contract in 2017. He will need to step up this year if he is to be worth the money Brisbane are paying him, and given his natural talents that should not be too hard a task
Luke Brook said that regardless of the Tigers great defence, they need to start scoring “more than one try” in order to be a strong side in 2018. Marshall added that as much as he is not too worried about the penalties the team is giving away, they need to fix their discipline.
Broncos Captain Darius Boyd has praised the nature of star signing Jack Bird, saying he has fitted well in the team. “It’s exciting for the club to have him playing this week and seeing what he can do for us,” he added.
The Broncos have won eight of the past 10 matchups with the Tigers, as well as winning the past two at Campbelltown Stadium in 2013 and 2014.
Tigers: 1 Corey Thompson, 2 David Nofoaluma, 3 Esan Marsters, 4 Kevin Naiqama, 5 Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, 6 Benji Marshall (c), 7 Luke Brooks, 8 Russell Packer, 9 Pita Godinet, 10 Ben Matulino, 11 Chris Lawrence, 12 Robbie Rochow, 13 Matthew Eisenhuth, Interchange: 14 Matt McIlwrick 15 Alex Twal, 16 Michael Chee Kam, 17 Josh Aloiai, Reserves: 18 Tyson Gamble, 19 Sauaso Sue, 20 Tim Grant, 21 Taane Milne
Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 4 Tom Opacic, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Tevita Pangai Jnr, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Josh McGuire, Interchange: 14 Sam Thaiday, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Korbin Sims, 17 Jaydn Su’a, Reserves: 18 Sam Tagataese, 19 Jack Bird, 20 Jonus Pearson, 21 Todd Murphy
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 23rd March 2018
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium, Campbelltown
Kickoff: 8:05 pm AEDT (7:05 pm AEST)
Referee: Ashley Klein, Matt Noyen (assistant)
WHO WILL WIN?
This week will show if the Broncos really did turn a corner, up against an in form opponent on the road. The Tigers’ form over shadows the quality and depth of their side, which could show through in a third straight game where they are significant underdogs. Brisbane has the advantage in almost every aspect of the game (bar the halves to an extent), and should put all that to work. The possibility of Jack Bird playing reduces the worry around Jordan Kahu’s absence and could be an ‘x factor’ for team. Expect Wayne Bennett’s side to back up their win against the Cowboys. Broncos by 6.