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With Tuesday’s thrilling ANZAC day matches done and dusted, we don’t have to wait long for the next dose of NRL action, with the Broncos and Panthers squaring off at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
Brisbane were dealt one of the toughest opening draws in recent memory over the first month or so of the competition – and they play extremely well throughout – but there level has dropped since halfback Ben Hunt got injured, with the Broncos posting narrow triumphs over the Titans and Rabbitohs in the last fortnight.
The Broncos easily could have lost both games – they needed a last-minute charge down from Matt Gillett to score the match-winner against the Titans, while several controversial refereeing calls went their way against Souths, including the Anthony Milford field goal, which he appeared to have knocked on.
Further illustrating Brisbane’s slump is the fact they’ve conceded 22 points or more in their last two matches – something they hadn’t done in the first six rounds.
The main shining light for the Broncos has been Darius Boyd, who has taken the pressure off Milford with his ability to create and slot seamlessly into the backline to set up tries on the wing.
But while the Broncos’ level has definitely dipped, the Panthers are in far worse predicament.
Penrith have been extremely disappointing so far this season, posting a dismal 2-6 record and producing nowhere near the level that had them touted as premiership favourites in the pre-season.
Pressure continues to build at the foot of the mountains and on former Broncos coach Anthony Griffin as he desperately attempts to find some form among his troops.
The Panthers haven’t score more than 12 points in three of their last four games, indicating that their young halves are struggling to back up last year’s efforts, while Matt Moylan is also in a big form slump.
One thing the Panthers have going for them is their recent history against the Broncos – they’ve won four of the last five meetings – but a trip to Suncorp in this sort of form must remain daunting. Brisbane aren’t playing their bet, but at home, I think they find a way to win and condemn Penrith to a fifth straight loss.
Brisbane Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c) 2 Corey Oates 3 James Roberts 4 Tautau Moga 5 Jordan Kahu 6 Anthony Milford 7 Kodi Nikorima 8 Herman Ese’ese 9 Andrew McCullough 10 Adam Blair 11 Alex Glenn 12 Matt Gillett 13 Josh McGuire Interchange 14 Sam Thaiday 15 Joe Ofahengaue 16 Korbin Sims 17 David Mead 18 Travis Waddell 19 George Fai 20 Jamayne Isaako 21 Jonus Pearson
Penrith Panthers: 1 Matt Moylan (c) 2 Waqa Blake 3 Dean Whare 4 Peta Hiku 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 6 Bryce Cartwright 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 Tyrone Peachey 15 Leilani Latu 16 Tim Browne 17 Moses Leota 18 James Fisher-Harris 19 Te Maire Martin 20 Viliame Kikau 21 Sitaleki Akauola