The 9th placed Raiders (6-8) travel down to Brisbane to meet the eighth-placed Broncos (8-6) in a vital clash for the Canberra outfit who are sitting two wins outside of the top eight. A win for the Ricky Stuart's outfit will close the gap to just one win and really give their season some momentum heading into the latter stages of the season while Wayne Bennett's men will want to put breathing room between themselves and the bottom eight coming off a representative round with one game still remaining.
With Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson returning to the fray off the bench, he turned into a brilliant display to help his side dismantle the Tigers, whipping them 48-12. The bulldozing Junior Paulo also returns from injury and could have a big impact off the bench. A win here would help with a couple of winnable games coming up.
The Broncos got their way out of trouble with a late try against the Sharks two weeks ago. While their season has been far from perfect, they have got themselves onto the right side of the ladder at this stage and are always a final threat when they do make it.
2017 – Broncos 30 def. Raiders 20 at GIO Stadium
2017 – Broncos 13 def. Raiders 12 at Suncorp Stadium
2016 - Broncos 26 def. Raiders 18 at Suncorp Stadium
2015 - Broncos 24 def. Raiders 12 at GIO Stadium
2014 - Broncos 28 def. Raiders 4 at GIO Stadium
The Broncos have won the last 5 outings between the sides, and you would have to go back to 2013 when the Raiders last claimed a victory. And if history ever mattered, the Raiders last won in Brisbane back in 2010, and only once since 2004. Ricky Stuart's record against Wayne Bennett isn't much better either, having last defeated him when Bennett was in charge of the Knights in 2014; his only success in the last twelve attempts. Suffice to say, the Raiders have a lot going against them coming into this contest.
The Broncos have their Origin and Test representatives all backing up from last week, with the only change being Tom Opacic replacing Sam Tagataese on the bench.
For the Raiders, Josh Hodgson returns to the starting line-up, as does Iosia Soliola. Junior Paulo has recovered from his foot injury and comes on to the bench.
|Brisbane Broncos||Canberra Raiders|
|1||Darius Boyd (c)|| Jack Wighton|
|2||Corey Oates||Nick Cotric|
|3||James Roberts||Jarrod Croker|
|4||Jordan Kahu||Joseph Leilua|
|5||Jamayne Isaako||Michael Oldfield|
|6||Anthony Milford||Blake Austin|
|7||Kodi Nikorima||Aidan Sezer|
|8||Matthew Lodge||Iosia Soliola|
|9||Andrew McCullough||Josh Hodgson|
|10||Sam Thaiday||Shannon Boyd|
|11||Tevita Pangai Jnr||Joseph Tapine|
|12||Jaydn Su'A||Elliott Whitehead|
|13||Josh McGuire||Josh Papalii|
|14||Patrick Mago||Siliva Havili|
|15||Joe Ofahengaue||Junior Paulo|
|16||Tom Opacic||Dunamis Lui|
|17||Alex Glenn||Liam Knight|
|18||Korbin Sims||Jack Murchie|
|19||Troy Dargan||Charlie Gubb|
|20||Sam Tagataese||Craig Garvey|
|21||David Fifita||Brad Abbey|
The facts that matter
The Broncos will be weary of having players back up from Origin and International duty. But it will be in their non-representative players where they look to lead from the front. Corey Oates was in solid form, running for over 200 metres, breaking tackles and scoring one try in his effort against Cronulla two weeks back. All told he has broken the line 12 times already this season. Another solid performance this week and he could well find himself in the Queensland squad for Origin III.
Darius Boyd has foregone his time in representative football and with his focus now only on the Broncos, expect he'll start to lead by example as they work towards their finals charge. Andrew McCullough will want also want to show why he's the number 1 Origin hooker, and his match-up against a resurgent Josh Hodgson could prove to be key. If he can work the ball, he can free up likes of Oates run freely.
Josh Hodgson was the story of the Raiders last-start win over the Tigers and the outfit looks better on attack with him working the ball. Nick Cotric could well find himself on the cusp of Origin next year, with his 15 line-breaks topping the chart. The young winger only needs a bit of space to show the pace he is capable of. With Blake Austin showing encouraging signs last week and not expected to be at the Raiders next season, he'll want to turn in some good performances for when he goes off-contract. Canberra know how to score tries (second in the competition with 55, behind South Sydney) and break the line (second with 67 also behind South Sydney) and the Broncos need to be wary of the threat their attack can possess.
Barnstorming forward Junior Paulo also returns from a foot sprain, and will replace Shannon Boyd off the bench. Expect some metres from him to place some real pressure on the Broncos forwards, while Elliott Whitehead backs up having scored a double in a man of the match performance for England against New Zealand last weekend in Denver,
History would say the Broncos should win comfortably, with the Raiders struggling to beat them at home, let alone at Suncorp. But with a few Broncos backing up from representative duty combined with the likes of Hodgson and Austin in form, the Raiders might want this one more badly given another loss would send them three wins off a top-eight spot, with 10 rounds to play. Expect a very tight run contest.
Tip: Raiders by 2
Who'll come out on top when the Broncos host the Raiders on Saturday night? Let us know in the comments below.