BRISBANE BRONCOS V NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS – 7:30PM (NZT)/5:30PM (AEST), SATURDAY, JULY 13 @ SUNCORP STADIUM, BRISBANE
The Storylines: The Warriors’ rollercoaster campaign headed in a slightly upward trajectory with a nerve-shredding 24-20 win over a severely depleted Newcastle side last weekend. After an abysmal first-half display, the maligned side showed plenty of character and attacking enterprise to post four tries to one in the second stanza – in the face of some second-rate refereeing.
It’s remarkable the difference a week can make in rugby league; the Warriors are now only two points shy of the Top 8 and can take some massive strides towards the finals if they capitalise on a relatively soft run over the next few rounds. But a victory over embattled Brisbane is an absolute must.
The Broncos also come into Round 17 with a 6-9 record after snatching a two-point comeback win at Cronulla with a host of players unavailable. Their season is still hanging by a thread, however, and they have been one of the few teams arguably more inconsistent and underachieving than the Warriors.
Awful at home, the Warriors have enjoyed being on the road of late and are hunting their fifth straight win in Australia.
Potentially a season-defining match for both teams.
Ins and Outs: Karl Lawton is out injured, with Issac Luke moving into the starting team and Chanel Harris-Tavita the somewhat surprising bench replacement in the only change to last week’s 17.
Peta Hiku, Jazz Tevaga and Bunty Afoa are all expected to play despite leaving the field in Newcastle.
Brisbane has named Queensland stars Corey Oates, Joe Ofahengaue and David Fifita to back up three days after the Origin decider, but Matt Gillett is out injured. The big shock is Anthony Milford’s return at fullback after it appeared he would be ruled out for the season; if he plays, Darius Boyd will revert to five-eighth.
Sean O’Sullivan’s injury means Jake Turpin moves into the No.7.
The History: Played 42 – Broncos won 24, Warriors won 18
-The last three matches between these clubs have been won by the away team.
-The Warriors have won six of the last seven matches between the clubs played after Round 11.
-The Warriors’ last loss in Brisbane was in 2016
-The Warriors are on a four-match away winning streak.
-The Broncos have split their last six games at Suncorp 3-3.
Last Time They Met: The Broncos grinded out an 8-2 win at Mt Smart Stadium in Round 11, courtesy of an outstanding defensive display and Anthony Milford’s second-half try.
Brisbane are 18-12 ATS when favoured by 4 or more at Suncorp off a win. The Warriors have covered six straight away from Mt Smart. The Warriors have covered 10 of 13 when an underdog away from Mt Smart. The over is 39-24 in Brisbane home games. The over is 20-10 when Brisbane are favoured by 4 or more at Suncorp off a win. The over is 21-14 when the Broncos are home off a win. The over is 12-7 when the Warriors are away from Mt Smart as an underdog off a win. The over is 12-5 when the Warriors are away off scoring 24-plus.
TAB’s Best Bet: Warriors +4 @ $1.90
The Verdict: The Warriors have to grasp this opportunity against an injury-hit, Origin-weary and low-on-confidence Broncos outfit. Offensively they need to ditch the stale, structured play that characterised a dreadful first-half performance in Newcastle and repeat what they produced in the second – lively, off-the-cuff footy that allows their silky ball-players and top-shelf finishers a chance to break the shackles. There were encouraging signs last week – particularly from Agnatius Paasi – that the Warriors forwards can match Lodge, Haas, Pangai Jr and co., but that shapes as the visitors’ biggest obstacle on Saturday night. If the pack can at least match their counterparts, the experience and class of Tuivasa-Sheck, Green and Luke should get the Warriors over the line. Huge night for Kodi Nikorima, too, against his former team at his old home ground. Warriors by 6