Wests Tigers v Broncos
The Tigers face a massive challenge in coming weeks, starting with this very important game. They will again be without the injured Benji Marshall, but they have somehow got to overcome that to be competitive and, hopefully for them, win.
The Tigers have lost three in a row, against the Sea Eagles, Storm and Dragons. To be fair, they were in the game for a long time against the Storm before being overwhelmed in the closing stages, and they came back in the second half to make a game of it against the Dragons, but that is a big part of the problem for them. They aren't playing for anything like 80 minutes.
The only wins the Tigers have had this season were against the Eels and Panthers, which is proving not much of a recommendation for anything. It looked before the start of the season that they would struggle to make the finals, even with Marshall and Robbie Farah in their side, and that is how it appears to be turning out.
The jury is still out on whether the Broncos are a finals team, but after losing three of their first four games they’ve recovered well to beat the Titans and the Cowboys. Their side is pretty settled now, and they are getting good direction from established team leaders Sam Thaiday, Peter Wallace and Justin Hodges. Unless the defence of the Tigers improves, it is going to be hard for the gold and blacks to stop the Broncos from accruing the points they will need to win this game.
The Tigers have made a couple of key positional changes for this match. James Tedesco moves from wing to fullback, and Tim Moltzen from fullback to halfback. Matt Uati comes in on the wing. Second-rower Bodene Thompson and bench forward Liam Fulton are back from injury in the 19-man squad, with Matt Bell out.
Meanwhile the Broncos have added Josh McGuire to the bench in an 18-man squad, but are otherwise unchanged.
Watch Out Wests Tigers: Hodges is looking very dangerous at the moment. He's warming up for State of Origin. In the win over the Titans he made 121 metres from 14 runs, plus one line-break and two offloads. Against the Cowboys he came up with 134 metres from 17 runs, and one offload. It's rare that he doesn't at least push the defence back and put it under pressure for the next play. Opposite number Chris Lawrence will have his hands full containing the veteran.
Watch Out Broncos: Robbie Farah was most responsible for dragging the Tigers back into the game against the Dragons. He came up with one line-break and one offload as he schemed for a way through the defence. With no Marshall, the Tigers will depend heavily on Farah making something happen for them in this game.
Plays To Watch: Youngster Curtis Sironen showed some promising signs at five-eighth for the Tigers against the Dragons. He will be much better off for the run, and has the ability, with his big frame, to draw multiple defenders and get the ball away to supports in the outside backs.
Corey Norman might be a better five-eighth than he is a fullback, but he is getting more used to wearing the No.1 jumper. He racked up 199 metres against the Titans and 172 more against the Cowboys. Norman is becoming increasingly threatening when he runs the ball.
Key Match-Up: There is a massive difference in experience in the halves, when you compare the combination of Sironen and Moltzen for the Tigers with Scott Prince and Peter Wallace for the Broncos. Heck, Prince won a premiership with the Tigers when Sironen was only 12 years old. Big task facing the Tigers’ duo!
Where It Will Be Won: In the head. The Broncos, when they get rolling, are a relentless side that keep pushing the pace of the game for 80 minutes. The Tigers haven't been committing for long enough in games, and if they drift in and out of this one, they will lose again.
The History: Played 20; Broncos 15, Wests Tigers 4, drawn 1. The Broncos have won six of the past nine clashes between the teams.
Match Officials: Referees – Ben Cummins & Gavin Morris; Sideline Officials – Dan Eastwood & Dave Ryan; Video Referees – Paul Mellor & Luke Patten.
Televised: Fox Sports 1 – Live, 7.30pm.
The Way We See It: Not much the Wests Tigers have done recently generates confidence in their ability to win this match, and the continued unavailability of Marshall just adds to their woes. The Broncos are looking fairly solid at the moment, and can get the job done on the road. Broncos by eight points.
*Statistics: NRL Stats