Brisbane Broncos v Melbourne Storm: Lineups, preview and predictions

Suncorp Stadium, Friday 20th April, 7:55pm AEST.

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Overview 

Here, we have a mouthwatering clash, featuring the Broncos hosting Queensland’s adopted team, the Storm. This will yet again pit Broncos coach Wayne Bennett take on his former protégé, Storm coach Craig Bellamy, in what has been a rivalry with no shortage of intrigue.
The Broncos snapped a two-match losing streak last week when they caused a major boil over by upstaging the previously undefeated Warriors in front of their supporters in Auckland. This was achieved despite the injuries which they had prior to the match, to second-rower Matt Gillett and halfback Kodi Nikorima. 

The defending premiers also snapped a two-game losing streak last week by emphatically dismantling the Knights at home. This victory not only gave the Knights a reality check, but it demonstrated that the reigning premiers are not a spent force, and very much still a force to be reckoned with. The decision by Bellamy to drop halfback Brodie Croft in favour of giving Ryley Jacks a run proved to be beneficial. 

Suncorp Stadium has historically been a graveyard for visiting teams. However, this is not the case at all with the Storm, as they have won 13 of their 20 matches at the Cauldron. As such, they will head into this match with an abundance of confidence to consolidate on their good record against their opponents and at the ground. 

Recent meetings 

2017 – Preliminary Final – Melbourne Storm 30 def. Brisbane Broncos 0 at AAMI Park. 

2017 – Round 17 – Melbourne Storm 44 def. Brisbane Broncos 12 at Suncorp Stadium. 

2017 – Round 3 – Melbourne Storm 14 def. Brisbane Broncos 12 at AAMI Park. 

2016 – Round 25 – Brisbane Broncos 26 def. Melbourne Storm  16 at AAMI Park. 

2016 – Round 17 – Melbourne Storm 48 def. Brisbane Broncos 6 at Suncorp Stadium. 

The Storm has won four of the five most recent meetings with the Broncos. In fact, the reigning premiers have proven to be the Broncos’ bogey team, having won 29 of their 43 encounters, while the Broncos have won 13 of these meetings, with the lone draw coming in 2000. In fact, the Storm are the only team to hold a positive overall record against the Broncos. 

Since the Storm’s inception year in 1998, it was actually the Broncos who were the dominant side. However, since Craig Bellamy stepped out from the shadow of his mentor, Wayne Bennett, to take on the reigns at the Storm in 2003, the Storm have been incredibly dominant over the Broncos, dropping only nine matches since then. However, for all of Bellamy and the Storm’s dominance over Bennett and the Broncos, the men from the sunshine state capital were actually able to outfox the Storm in the 2006 decider, despite being heavily favoured to lose. 

As for their encounters at Lang Park, the Storm have departed from Brisbane with the two competition points on 13 out of 20 meetings. In fact, it is almost a decade since the Broncos were able to defeat the Storm at the Cauldron. 

Lineups

Brisbane Broncos Melbourne Storm
1 Darius Boyd Billy Slater
2 Corey Oates Suliasi Vunivalu
3 James Roberts Will Chambers
18/4 Tom Opacic Curtis Scott
5 Jamayne Isaako Josh Addo-Carr
6 Jack Bird Cameron Munster
7 Anthony Milford Ryley Jacks
8  < Player name redacted* > Jesse Bromwich
9 Andrew McCullough Cameron Smith
10 Tevita Pangai Junior Nelson Asofa-Solomona
11 Alex Glenn Felise Kaufusi
12 Korbin Sims Ryan Hoffman
13 Josh McGuire Tim Glasby
Interchange
14 Sam Thaiday Brandon Smith
15 Joe Ofahengaue Kenny Bromwich
16 Kodi Nikorima Christian Welch
17 Jaydn Su’A Sam Kasiano
Reserves
18 Jonus Pearson Young Tonumaipea
19 Troy Dargan Joe Stimson
20 Sam Tagataese Patrick Kaufusi
21 Payne Haas Brodie Croft

The facts that matter 

Broncos 

The Broncos’ victory over the Warriors across the Tasman saw them break a two-match losing streak and secure a confidence-boosting victory, returning into the top eight. Moreover, in securing this hard-fought victory, they consigned the Warriors to their first defeat for 2018. Prior to this vital win, they had suffered consecutive losses to the Titans and Knights. 

In their victory over the Warriors, the Broncos had lost Matt Gillett and Kodi Nikorima to injury and were forced to dig deep to return to Australia with the two points. This showed in the statistics, given that, despite having less possession, the Bronx amassed 1550 metres and made 5 line breaks, while making fewer errors. Moreover, the finished the match with a completion rate of 88%. 

In defence, they missed only 26 tackles to the Warriors’ 38. The aforementioned statistics depict that the Broncos should never be written off, especially with super coach Wayne Bennett at the helm. 

Storm 

Last week, we saw a performance which was more like what we would expect from the Storm, as they once again reminded us of their premiership credentials in their demolition of the Knights. It was a performance in which they were both scintillating in attack and staunch in defence. 

After being rather profligate in attack against the Sharks and Tigers, the reigning premiers’ attack roared back into form against the Knights, and some of the final statistics made for rather scary reading for opposing teams. With 58% possession, the premiers amassed 1501 metres from 168 runs (including 505 post-contact metres), made 13 offloads (compared to the Knights’ 5), made 7 offloads and only 8 errors. 

Their defence shows no signs of letting up, as they missed fewer tackles than their opponents while conceding only 6 penalties. Exemplifying the Storm’s attitude in defence is when young Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga had made a line break and was on his way to scoring a try. But Storm fullback Billy Slater would defy his age and run him down, forcing an error in the process. 

Prediction

With the rivalry that these two combatants have built up over the years, it will be little surprise to see fireworks from the players of either team. Moreover, Craig Bellamy will be eager to maintain his impressive record over his former mentor Wayne Bennett. Given his team’s record at Suncorp Stadium, as well as their overall record against the Broncos, it would be worth backing him to do so. 

Although the Storm are essentially Queensland’s adopted team, given they have a feeder club based in Brisbane, coupled by the fact that legendary Storm players Cameron Smith and Billy Slater have contributed a great deal for the game as a whole (not least Queensland), there is little room for sentiment in this match. This is especially the rather patchy form of both teams this season. 

Moreover, their last encounter occurred in the preliminary finals last season, in which the Storm obliterated the Broncos en route to their title. As such, one will expect the Bronx to rip into the Storm. Similarly, one can expect to see the Storm endeavour to not only consolidate on their impressive record against the Broncos, but remind them why they are the premiers.
Despite the Storm winning their previous matches at the Cauldron rather convincingly, I expect this match to be rather close. However, I can’t see the Broncos breaking their losing streak against the Melburnians. Storm by 8.

Who claims the two points when these big rivals clash? Let us know in the comments and poll below.

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