In what is shaping up to be yet another hard-fought Queensland derby, Round 22 of the Telstra NRL Premiership sees the Brisbane Broncos travel to 1300SMILES Stadium to take on a North Queensland Cowboys side desperate to avoid the wooden spoon.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
North Queensland Cowboys
Despite being dubbed as a potential premiership favourite prior to the commencement of the season, the boys from North Queensland have not been able to take a trick thus far in 2018. When considering that the Cowboys are currently sitting in 15th place on the NRL Ladder and are on equal competition points (12) with the last placed Parramatta Eels, they will no doubt be motivated to salvage what is left of 2018 and secure a win over a Broncos side coming off a disappointing loss.
Wayne Bennett’s men will be eager to make amends for their uncharacteristic, second-rate effort against the Canterbury Bulldogs in Round 22. Sitting just two points shy of the fourth and fifth placed St. George Illawarra Dragons and Penrith Panthers, a victory on Thursday night would elevate the Broncos to within striking distance of the top four and put them in good stead for the finals.
North Queensland Cowboys
The Cowboys have made just one change to their line up for Thursday night’s clash against the Broncos, with Corey Jensen taking the place of Shaun Fensom (concussion) on the interchange bench.
The Broncos have made a host of changes to their line up for Thursday night’s clash. Coach Wayne Bennett has elected to move Jamayne Isaako back to the wing, with captain Darius Boyd returning to fullback. In another backline reshuffle, 19-year-old Gehamat Shibasaki is set to debut at centre, with Jordan Kahu subsequently relegated to the reserves list. Josh McGuire (suspension) and Tevita Pangai Junior (hamstring) have been replaced in the starting side by Joe Ofahengaue and David Fifita, with Sam Tagataese and Patrick Mago recalled to the interchange bench.
For the Cowboys to secure victory over the Broncos, it is imperative that they replicate the same energy and determination that they displayed in the final 20 minutes against the Sydney Roosters last week. Getting out of the blocks early and capitalising on their attacking opportunities will be the best way for the Cowboys to rattle the boys from Brisbane. However, for the Cowboys to have any chance of exposing the Broncos’ defensive line, the performances of middle-men Matt Scott, Jordan McLean and Jason Taumalolo are imperative. Making it their intent to dominate and gain valuable metres down the middle of the field will give halves Jake Clifford and Johnathan Thurston numerous opportunities to trouble the Broncos with their strong running game and deft kicking.
Off the back of their substandard performance last week, the Broncos will be looking to tidy up their combinations in both attack and defence. Given the wealth of talent in the Cowboys’ line-up and their ability to muster something out of nothing, it is important that the Broncos have a high tackle efficiency to restrict the Cowboys’ opportunity for offloads. To accommodate for the loss of Josh McGuire and Tevita Pangai Junior, the experienced members of the Broncos’ forward pack (Sam Thaiday and Alex Glenn) must lay the foundation for youngster David Fifita with determined carries and a strong effort in defence. From an attacking perspective, the Broncos will have the best chance of unravelling and disrupting the Cowboys’ defensive structures if their spine (Boyd, Milford, Nikorima, McCullough) can utilise their speed in the ruck and their halves can continually build pressure with their respective kicking games.
Broncos forward Sam Thaiday is set to play his 300th NRL game in this Round 22 clash, becoming just the 33rd player to notch 300 games and the 15th to reach the milestone for one club.
North Queensland Cowboys: 1 Te Maire Martin, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Enari Tuala, 4 Kane Linnett, 5 Justin O’Neill, 6 Jake Clifford, 7 Johnathan Thurston, 8 Matthew Scott, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Jordan McLean, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Coen Hess, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Ben Hampton, 15 John Asiata, 16 Corey Jensen, 17 Scott Bolton. Reserves: 18 Ethan Lowe, 19 Gideon Gela-Mosby, 20 Lachlan Coote, 24 Francis Molo.
Brisbane Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd, 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 4 Gehamat Shibasaki, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Sam Thaiday, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 David Fifita, 13 Joe Ofahengaue. Interchange: 14 Sam Tagataese, 15 Patrick Mago, 16 Korbin Sims, 17 Kotoni Staggs. Reserves: 18 George Fai, 19 Troy Dargan, 20 Jordan Kahu, 21 Tevita Pangai Junior.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday, August 9 2018
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium
Kick-off: 7:50pm (AEST)
WHO WILL WIN?
Despite both teams coming off the back of losses last week, expect the Broncos to regain their form from Rounds 19 and 20 and secure victory over the Cowboys to keep their top four aspirations intact.
Broncos by 8