NRL live scores, blog: Brisbane Broncos vs New Zealand Warriors

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Suncorp Stadium will be a packed house tonight as the Broncos host the Warriors in what could be Darren Lockyer’s last game in Queensland. Join us from 6.30pm AEST tonight for live scores and blog.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Broncos haven’t had too much to play for in their wins over the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles, with the six-time premiership winners guaranteed to finish third irrespective the results.

Although they did manage to win their last two games, the lack of intensity displayed by Brisbane in such inconsequential matches could come back to haunt them against a Warriors unit brimming with confidence.

New Zealand enters this match-up the better prepared of the two sides. Over the past fortnight, the Warriors have played in high-intensity contests against quality opposition.

Two weeks ago, the Warriors fell narrowly to the St George Illawarra Dragons in a great contest.

However, Ivan Cleary’s men found themselves back in the winner’s circle after they accounted for fellow finalists the North Queensland Cowboys last Saturday.

Such intense match-ups should serve the Warriors well against a Broncos side that is missing key players Josh Hoffman and Sam Thaiday.

While they do welcome back Origin centre Justin Hodges from injury, the loss of Hoffman and Thaiday could not have come at a worse time for Brisbane.

Hoffman and Thaiday have been outstanding for the Broncos this season. Thaiday sits alongside Glenn Stewart as the most influential second-rower in the NRL, as evidenced by his inclusion in the 2011 Dally M team of the year.

Hoffman was also in great form prior to his injury. One of the main reasons the Broncos often start their sets in good field position revolves around Hoffman’s ability to produce a solid kick return.

Indeed, Hoffman ranks highly in tackle busts this season and Brisbane will miss his punch from the back.

The Warriors meanwhile welcome back destructive winger Manu Vatuvei from injury. ‘The Beast’ presents a formidable target for any opposition defence, given that he has scored 10 tries in just 15 games this season.

Halves Shaun Johnson and James Maloney will be keen to direct the Warriors attack down Vatuvei’s wing.

Brisbane must also nullify New Zealand’s constant ability to offload possession.

The Warriors are the second-most prolific offloading team in the NRL. Ivan Cleary’s men largely depend on their offloading ability to create broken field play which allows the likes of Vatuvei, Johnson and Kevin Locke to cause havoc.

Johnson in particular is a handful as evidenced by the try he scored against the Broncos in round 22, where he evaded seven Broncos players.

Despite their care free attitude with the football, the Warriors ought to respect possession against the Broncos. If they don’t, Brisbane halves Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace will punish the away side.

It is no surprise Brisbane’s attack revolves around Darren Lockyer and Peter Wallace.

Lockyer in particular loves asking questions of opposition defences by running the ball on the last tackle, or changing the point of the attack when he positions himself at first receiver.

If the Warriors surrender too much possession, a player of Lockyer’s class will surely orchestrate a lot of points for the Broncos.

All up, perhaps the deciding factor in this match will be the crowd. The site of a packed Suncorp Stadium will motivate both teams to give it their all in a match which promises an enthralling game of rugby league.

Given that the Warriors have played at a finals-like intensity over the past few weeks, such an atmosphere may indeed bring out the best from the visitors. If it does, a Warriors victory will be the most likely result.

Key stats:

- Broncos prop Josh McGuire has a particularly good record when he leads the way forward – he’s won six of seven matches when he’s run for more than 100 metres

- Any chance Brisbane might wish they were the away side? The Broncos have a shocking finals record at Suncorp Stadium, winning just one of seven finals matches at the venue

- The Warriors have to defy history if they are to beat Brisbane. Since 2002 whenever these teams have met twice in a season, the side that has won the first match has always gone on to win the second match of the season. Given that the Broncos have already won a game this season, history suggests they will defeat the Warriors again.

The Broncos will be desperate for a win to keep inspirational skipper Darren Lockyer’s fairytale farewell season alive. Can they do it?

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