NSW’s State of Origin injury woes have deepened with Payne Haas ruled out of game two due to a hamstring strain.
Round 5 NRL kicks off with a key match-up as the stuttering Brisbane Broncos welcome the Wests Tigers to Suncorp Stadium.
In a quirk of fixturing, this is Brisbane’s third consecutive Thursday night game and their fourth from the first five rounds this season – their Round 2 match was played on a Friday night.
The fixture quirks keep coming, too. 2019 is yet another season where Brisbane and Wests will only play each other once. They’ve only played each other twice in a regular season two times since 2008.
Last time these teams met it was a 9-7 golden point win to Brisbane in Campbelltown, thanks to Jamayne Isaako’s ‘walk-off’ penalty goal. This was a highly controversial result which saw referee Ashley Klein stood down for incorrectly awarding the game’s decisive penalty.
The Broncos currently sit 13th in the standings with just one win. A loss to the Tigers would almost certainly rule out any hopes of top-four finish. Wests are sixth with an even 2-2 record.
Brisbane come into this week reeling after receiving a 36-4 pounding from the Sydney Roosters at the SCG. Anthony Seibold’s men came out slack, got down 22-0 at halftime and were never in the contest against the reigning premier.
The Tigers’ Round 4 outing was an 9-8 golden point loss to Penrith, a game they led until Nathan Cleary levelled scores with an 80th-minute conversion. Michael Maguire’s men had multiple chances to put the game away, with three gettable kicks missed by Esan Masters and three missed field goals by Luke Brooks and Josh Reynolds. There’s no doubt at all that the game was one that got away.
Brisbane have had some issues at selection this week. Forward Tevita Pangai Junior will miss this game and Brisbane’s Round 6 trip to Canberra after accepting a two-week suspension for his late, late shot on Roosters’ halfback Cooper Cronk.
Usually, there’s enough of a grey area to put up a defence for late hits, but Pangai Junior lined up Cronk, hit him a long time after he’d passed the ball and also turned his shoulder for maximum impact. It was a bad decision which has cost his team dearly.
As for centre James Roberts, the rehabilitation program for his achilles tendon injury certainly wouldn’t have included getting on the cans like he did following Brisbane’s loss to St George Illawarra in Round 3. Roberts overcooked his night out, social media did the rest, and Jimmy the Jet is now out ‘indefinitely’ according to the Broncos.
At least Seibold can use Payne Haas, with the 20-year-old prop available for selection having completing a club-imposed four-match suspension for refusing to cooperate with the NRL Integrity Unit during the offseason. The 6’4, 119 kilogram Haas only has three games to his name but expectations for him are high at Red Hill.
Young prop Patrick Carrigan is also in line to make his NRL debut.
Michael Maguire was seething after his side threw away a win at Penrith. The Tigers completed more sets, made fewer errors, missed fewer tackles and scored two tries to one, and still managed to lose.
Wests’ attack was ineffective at best throughout the game, repeatedly taking poor options on the last tackle. They gave away territory too easily late in the game and let the Panthers in at the death.
There will be much more expected from Moses Mbye, who has been serviceable but tryless so far. He’s capable of much more.
Five-eighth Josh Reynolds will be better for the run after his first game of the year. Tigers fans would hope Reynolds, his halves partner Luke Brooks and hooker Robbie Farah are able to work the team’s attack to more effect this week.
Esan Marsters hasn’t kicked a goal in two weeks. Surely that turns around this week. Surely he can’t turn in another shocker with the boot like he did at Penrith. Surely?
The Tigers leapt from the blocks in 2019, racking up 54 points in commanding wins over Manly-Warringah and New Zealand before tumbling to losses against Canterbury-Bankstown and last week’s golden point choke in Penrith.
It has been hard to get a line on their form because of who they’ve played, but it’s worth noting they’ve only conceded 43 points. Stopping their opponent isn’t a problem but getting points on the board is a concern because they’ve only scored 70 points. That’s only one point ahead of Brisbane and it’s the lowest total of the top eight sides.
Brisbane have been copping it all week for their patchy early form, Darius Boyd’s poor defensive efforts and the lack of a half who can control a game. They’ll be worked up to charge out in front of their home crowd and for many, that’s the difference maker in this match-up.
Not for me, though. The Tigers can hold their discipline a little better this week and take advantage of the opportunities presented by Brisbane’s error-riddled attack and porous defence.
On paper, these teams match up pretty well man for man. Brisbane are the clear favourites with the bookies but I’m still leaning towards an unlikely win for the visitors.
Tigers by 2.
1. Darius Boyd, 2. Corey Oates, 3. Kontoni Staggs, 4. Jack Bird, 5. Jamayne Isaako, 6. Anthony Milford, 7. Kodi Nikorima, 8. Matt Lodge, 9. Andrew McCullough, 10. Joe Ofahengaue, 11. Alex Glenn, 12. Matt Gillett, 13. David Fifita
Interchange/Reserves: 15. Jaydn Su’A, 16. Thomas Flegler, 17. Patrick Carrigan, 18. Payne Haas, 19. Shaun Fensom, 21. Richard Kennar
1. Moses Mbye, 2. Mahe Fonua, 3. Robert Jennings, 4. Esan Marsters, 5. Corey Thompson, 6. Josh Reynolds, 7. Luke Brooks, 8. Russell Packer, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. Alex Twal, 11. Ryan Matterson, 12. Luke Garner, 13. Josh Aloiai
Interchange/Reserves: 14. Ben Matulino, 15. Thomas Mikaele, 16. Matt Eisenhuth, 17. Michael Chee-Kam, 18. Paul Momirovski, 19. Elijah Taylor
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