Brisbane Broncos host the South Sydney Rabbitohs in a Thursday Night battle at Suncorp Stadium with huge implications to both sides top 8 finish.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
The Brisbane side went to Townsville for their last Queensland derby of the year against the Cowboys. Early signs showed that Cowboys were there to play regardless of their position on the ladder. Cowboys led at the half 18-16 due to a 55-metre conversion, before the Broncos piled on two tries to lead just after the break 30-18. The home side was able to chip away at the lead with a last play kick in the 76th minute was pounced on by Cowboys to snatch the win 34-30.
South Sydney took on their rivals the Sydney Roosters in what was a grinding test with scores at the half 10-8 with only two tries scored. The Bunnies levelled with a penalty conversion in the 48th minute, with a wonderful try by the Roosters being made minutes later to regain the lead 16-10. Roosters trademark defence of this season held Souths out for just one try and their sideline conversion missing for them to lose 18-14.
Jordan Kahu returns in place of Gehamat Shibasaki in the centres, Josh McGuire returns at lock. Matt Lodge and Tevita Pangai Jnr are named to start with David Fifita and Joe Ofahengaue moving to the bench. Patrick Mago dropping out.
Alex Johnston is out with a hamstring injury to have Dane Gagai move to fullback. Tyrell Fuimaono starts in the centres with Mawene Hiroti named to make his debut from the bench.
This clash has the making of another brilliant game between two top sides who are wanting consistency and be as high up on the ladder come finals. These sides haven’t met since round 8 in which the Broncos were able to come away with a tough victory 24-20. Back when they played Souths were only 4 wins from 7 matches while Brisbane sat at 10th, fast forward to now, Bunnies are looking like favourites for a top place finish and Broncos are trying to hold onto a finals spot with big games still remaining.
Each of these sides has different stories in 2018 with a lot of consistency from South Sydney throughout the year while Brisbane with multiple lineup changes each week has now been hit hard with back to back losses weeks out from finals. A crucial decider in the fortunes of their team will rest upon one of the most dominant players of this season in Damien Cook up against Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough helping steer a young side around with well-ordered plays.
Broncos hooker McCullough has been one of the most consistent players of their lineup this season. A big effort coming off a knee reconstruction, the rake has made contributions in the middle of the Brisbane side which has had injuries left right and centre all season, however, Andrew has been able to focus in on what he can contribute and show some great support to his halves in the attack. McCullough to win this battle against one of the best hookers this season in Cook will need to limit his space and ability to jump out of the marker. The Broncos number nine has aided a lot of responsibility in kicking for his halves, jumping out of marker for field position kicks while making the right pass selection nearly every play.
South Sydney have been a force with their forwards all in form and their youthful backs feeding off it, but the most pivotal point of difference has been Damien Cook. The number nine has found that confidence and ability that many clubs before thought was there however with his first-grade spot solidified he has come leaps and bounds. Cook has created 6 try assists and 8 line break assists with that he not only makes right decisions, his vision to either pass or run has made him the best hooker in 2018. If Bunnies are to grab a big away win at Suncorp, Damien will have to give an almighty performance running out from the marker with his electric speed to rattle a Broncos side desperate for a win, but more importantly get his side running off him making the opposition pack unsettled.
Brisbane Broncos have won the past 5 meetings against South Sydney while scoring 24 points or more.
Broncos: 1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Jordan Kahu 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Matthew Lodge 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Sam Thaiday 11. Alex Glenn 12. Tevita Pangai Junior 13. Josh Mcguire
Interchange: 14. Kotoni Staggs 15. Joe Ofahengaue 16. Korbin Sims
Rabbitohs: 1. Dane Gagai 2. Hymel Hunt 3. Braidon Burns 4. Tyrell Fuimaono 5. Richard Kennar 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Thomas Burgess 9. Damien Cook 10. George Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Angus Crichton 13. Sam Burgess
Interchange: 14. Mawene Hiroti 15. Cameron Murray 16. Jason Clark
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday 16th August
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Kick-off: 7:50 pm
WHO WILL WIN?
The Rabbitohs are tasked with a dreaded late-season trip to Brisbane in which they take on the Broncos having just lost two straight and just weeks from the playoffs. Broncos will be itching to put in a performance to regain momentum and stray away from dropping out of the final 8.
There is so much to play for in this fixture with Rabbitohs still in contention of finishing 1st but also wanting a home semi-final, while the Brisbane side is just one heavy defeat from dropping to 9th. In front of a packed Suncorp Stadium and the visitors in South Sydney had a lot of injuries to their backline they will no doubt struggle to find the finesse to beat a desperate Broncos with their season slipping.
Prediction: Broncos by 6