James Cusack previews the opening Round 3 NRL Premiership clash between the Brisbane Broncos and St George Illawarra Dragons.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
After a first round up loss to the Storm the Broncos bounced back to form in the Queensland derby with a resounding 29-10 win over the Cowboys. Try scoring machine Corey Oates has already bagged four tries in the first two rounds and will like his chances come Thursday night with Jack Bird and himself causing havoc for defenders on that left edge.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons are still searching for their first win of the season after capitulating in the second half last week to the Rabbitohs. Five tries to one after half time led to the Dragons losing their first home game of the season to the tune of 16 points. Winger Jordan Pereira has started the season well scoring three tries alongside second-rower Jacob Host who has made a good impression in the first two rounds with his tackling and pressure.
Coach Anthony Seibold has named an unchanged line up from the team who dispatched the Cowboys last Friday night. Forwards Payne Haas and Matt Lodge are still unavailable through suspension though will be welcomed additions to the side in the coming weeks.
Broncos 21-man squad: Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd 2 Corey Oates 3 James Roberts 4 Jack Bird 5 Jamayne Isaako 6 Anthony Milford 7 Kodi Nikorima 8 Tevita Pangai Jr 9 Andrew McCullough 10 Joe Ofahengaue 11 Alex Glenn 12 David Fifita 13 Matt Gillett. Interchange: Kotoni Staggs 15 Jaydn Su’a 16 Thomas Flegler 17 Shaun Fensom. Reserves: 18 Patrick Carrigan 19 Patrick Mago 20 Izaia Perese 21 Gehamat Shibasaki.
St George Illawarra Dragons
It is still early in the season though Dragons coach Paul McGregor would be hoping for the same performance last time these two sides met in the elimination final last year. McGregor has made just one change and that is bringing in Korbin Sims who will play his first game as a Dragon against his former club as he replaces Josh Kerr on the interchange bench. Back rower Tyson Frizell remains out of the side after surgery on his ruptured testicle.
Dragons 21-man squad: Dragons: 1 Gareth Widdop 2 Jordan Pereira 3 Euan Aitken 4 Tim Lafai 5 Mikaele Ravalawa 6 Corey Norman 7 Ben Hunt 8 James Graham 9 Cameron McInnes 10 Paul Vaughan 11 Jacob Host 12 Tariq Sims 13 Blake Lawrie. Interchange: 14 Jeremy Latimore 15 Matt Dufty 16 Korbin Sims 17 Luciano Leilua. Reserves: 18 Zac Lomax 19 Reece Robson 20 Mitchell Allgood 21 Jonus Pearson.
HEAD TO HEAD
Having played each other 39 times the Broncos hold a 23-16 lead in the head to head battle. As mentioned, the Dragons will take in a lot of confidence knowing last time these two sides met they came away with a 30 point win at Suncorp in the finals series last year.
The battle of the halves will have a big say in who wins this game. Dragons centre Euan Aitken stirred the pot earlier in the week saying the Broncos halves pairing of Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima “crack under pressure.” Dragons’ halves Corey Norman and Ben Hunt are still gelling together having not played a lot of games with each other. If Hunt’s kicking game is on point the visitors have a great chance of causing an upset.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday March 28
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
Kick-off: 7.05pm (local)
Referee: Ben Cummins, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
WHO WILL WIN?
The Broncos will be hard to beat at home following their dominant performance last week. However, history shows the Dragons have won the past two encounters quite comfortably. In saying that, the Broncos’ forwards Tevita Pangai Junior and the slickness of Milford and Nikorima will be too much to handle for the Dragons.
Broncos by 10