There is no doubt that the Brisbane Broncos, with strike-power all over the paddock and an experienced mobile pack, will present the Aquis Titans with their sternest test of the early rounds at Cbus Super Stadium tonight.
But with plenty if hype surrounding the match and a crowd well in advance of 20,000 expected, it’s a challenge the team is looking forward to.
Certainly the absence of in-form five-eighth Tyrone Roberts will have an impact on the Titans, and leave halfback Ash Taylor with extra kicking responsibilities against his former team.
Coach Neil Henry will not disclose who will take Roberts’ place in the starting line-up until an hour before kick-off with Cameron Cullen in line to make his NRL debut, or Greg Bird switching from lock. Ryan James’ success at the judiciary on Wednesday night gives him some options in the pack.
The Titans camp concede that the Broncos’ effort in the grand final replay against the Cowboys last Friday night was the stand-out performance of the first four rounds, but Penrith showed only a week earlier how playing with some enterprise can be successful against the Broncos, bringing them a 23-22 victory.
The Broncos have conceded six tries less than the Titans in four games, which is a large difference, although the Titans’ 17 tries is second to only South Sydney over the first four rounds and the Titan’s 81 per cent completion rate is the best in the NRL – a marked improvement on last season.
Roberts will also take over the goalkicking duties but he has been faultless in the past two matches - when Roberts was hampered by a leg injury in the Wests Tigers clash, and after Roberts went off injured against the Raiders – with eight from eight.
Containing Broncos’ five-eighth Anthony Milford, whose performance against the Cowboys was one of the most dominant see in recent years, is a key to the Titans’ chances, along with closing down right centre James Roberts, the former Titan whose pace and strength is a big danger. Gold Coast product Darius Boyd has also been strong while Michael Gillett has been an unsung hero with this high-class work in the second row.
“Our boys showed great character to persevere and come back late to beat Canberra and stick to what we planned to do against them, and it’s great to go into this game with three wins from four,” said coach Henry.
“But that won’t count for much against the Broncos unless we improve in some key errors, not concede points early in the game like we have been and against one of the benchmark teams of the competition.”
The Titans have won two of the past three games at Cbus Super Stadium and went down 26-16 last season.
If they need any reminders about the need to start well and then keep the discipline and concentration up it was the corresponding clash last season. The Titans completed the first 11 sets, defended physically, and there was no score until the Broncos crossed for three tries in the 10 minutes before half-time – two against the run of play – to lead 18-0.
The Titans brought it back to 24-16 with 10 minutes remaining and had all the momentum, but couldn’t convert that into more points.
The Aquis Titans team is (from): David Mead, Anthony Don, Josh Hoffman, John Olive, Nene Macdonald, Ashley Taylor, David Shillington, Nathan Friend (capt), Agnatius Paasi, Zeb Taia, Chris McQueen, Greg Bird, Luke Douglas, Ryan James, Leivaha Pulu, Daniel Mortimer, Cameron Cullen, Eddy Pettybourne.
Broncos: Darius Boyd, Corey Oates, Jack Reed, James Roberts, Jordan Kahu, Anthony Milford, Ben Hunt, Josh McGuire, Andrew McCullough, Adam Blair, Alex Glenn, Matthew Gillett, Corey Parker (capt). Interchange: Jarrod Wallace, Sam Thaiday, Joe Ofahengaue, Kodi Nikorima.
Referees: Jared Maxwell, Gavin Badger.
Television: Live – Channel 9, Fox Sports
Radio: 2GB, 4BC, ABC, Triple M.
Fans are encouraged to buy tickets online via Ticketek and bring e-tickets to the stadium.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played 19: Broncos 14 wins, Titans 5.
At Cbus Super Stadium: Played 9 – Titans 4, Broncos 5.
Completions: Titans 80%, Broncos 75%
Tries scored: Titans 17, Broncos 13
Tries conceded: Titans 15, Broncos 9
Goalkicking: Titans 89%, Broncos 71%
Past 7 results:
2015 – Broncos 34-0 at Suncorp, Broncos 26-16 at Cbus Super
2014 – Broncos 22-8 at Suncorp, Titans 12-8 at Cbus Super
2013 – Broncos 32-6 at Suncorp
2012 – Titans 14-10 at Skilled, Broncos 26-6 at Suncorp