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Brisbane Broncos will be bidding to avoid a straight sets exit from the finals when they host Penrith Panthers in the first of this weekend’s NRL Semi Finals at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Brisbane Broncos were narrowly denied a place in the Preliminary Final last weekend when recovering from a slow start which saw them trail Sydney Roosters 14-0 before ultimately going down 24-22 in a thriller.
Wayne Bennett will be keen to his Broncos quicker out of the traps this weekend with Brisbane having also struggled early against the Parramatta Eels in the penultimate weekend of the regular season.
A straight sets exit from the finals is on the cards if the Broncos start slowly against, but they will start as favourites to progress to a Preliminary Final against minor premiers Melbourne Storm next week.
The Penrith Panthers kept their premiership hopes alive with an Elimination Final victory over Manly Sea Eagles last weekend as they won 22-10 on the road at Lottoland in a controversial contest, reversing the loss when the two sides met a week earlier on the final weekend of the season.
The Panthers have won four out of the last six head to heads, but the Broncos won 32-18 when the two sides met earlier in the campaign and have now won four of the last five meetings at Suncorp Stadium, stats that point to a victory for Brisbane.
Captain Darius Boyd has been named among the reserves, but could yet be given the go ahead to return to the Brisbane Broncos line-up after a hamstring injury. Kodi Nikorima has been named in the number one jersey.
Penrith Panthers were boosted by Dylan Edwards’ return last week and he has been named to back up this week, but there is no place for Matt Moylan due to his off-field issues.
Brisbane Broncos: 1. Kodi Nikorima, 2. Corey Oates, 3. James Roberts, 4. Tautau Moga, 5. Jordan Kahu, 6. Anthony Milford, 7. Benji Marshall, 8. Sam Thaiday, 9. Ben Hunt, 10. Adam Blair, 11. Alex Glenn, 12. Matt Gillett, 13. Josh McGuire.
Interchange: 14. David Mead, 15. Jai Arrow, 16. Joe Ofahengaue, 17. Herman Ese’ese. Reserves: 18. Darius Boyd, 19. Jaydn Su’A, 20. Jamayne Isaako, 21. Tevita Pangai Junior
Penrith Panthers: 1. Dylan Edwards, 2. Josh Mansour, 3. Tyrone Peachey, 4. Dean Whare, 5. Dallin Watene Zelezniak, 6. Tyrone May, 7. Nathan Cleary, 8. James Tamou, 9. Peter Wallace, 10. Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11. Corey Harawira-Naera, 12. Isaah Yeo, 13. Trent Merrin.
Interchange: 14. Sione Katoa, 15. Bryce Cartwright, 16. Moses Leota, 17. James Fisher-Harris. Reserves: 18. Jarome Luai, 19. Viliame Kikau, 20. Sitaleki Akauola, 21. Jed Cartwright.