Finals footy returns to Suncorp Stadium with a Friday night blockbuster between the highly-fancied Brisbane Broncos and the Penrith Panthers.
The Broncos wind up playing sudden-death football courtesy of a week one loss to the Sydney Roosters while the Panthers raced to a shock 22-10 victory at Manly in last week’s elimination final.
Wayne Bennett and the Broncos will be looking to reach the preliminary final at the second attempt after falling to a late defeat against the Roosters.
As for their opponents, few expected the Mountain Men to get passed the Sea Eagles, so the Panthers will be happy to be named as the underdogs once again this week.
The winner of this contest will be saddled with a clash against the Melbourne Storm next week on the harder side of the draw.
In a tasty little post-script, Penrith mentor Anthony ‘Hook’ Griffin returns to his old stomping ground in Brisbane, where he was moved on in favour of the return of prodigal son Bennett.
2017 – Rd 9 Brisbane Broncos 32 def. Penrith Panthers 18 at Suncorp Stadium
2016 – Rd 20 Penrith Panthers 31 def. Brisbane Broncos 12 at Suncorp Stadium
2016 – Rd 3 Penrith Panthers 23 def. Brisbane Broncos 22 at Pepper Stadium
2015 – Rd 9 Brisbane Broncos 8 def. Penrith Panthers 5 at Suncorp Stadium
2014 – Rd 18 Penrith Panthers 35 def. Brisbane Broncos 34 at Pepper Stadium
History might not always make for the best guide when it comes to finals football, but if it is anything to go by, we could be in for a cracking contest between two evenly matched teams and two coaches with a vested interest in getting one over an old friend.
The Broncos triumphed when the pair met earlier this year but Penrith have won five of the last eight encounters between the sides.
|BRISBANE BRONCOS||PENRITH PANTHERS|
|Kodi Nikorima||1||1||Dylan Edwards|
|Corey Oates||2||2||Josh Mansour|
|James Roberts||3||3||Tyrone Peachey|
|Tautau Moga||4||4||Dean Whare|
|Jordan Kahu||5||5||Dallin Watene-Zelezniak|
|Anthony Milford||6||6||Tyrone May|
|Benji Marshall||7||7||Nathan Cleary|
|Sam Thaiday||8||8||James Tamou|
|Ben Hunt||9||9||Peter Wallace|
|Adam Blair||10||10||Reagan Campbell-Gillard|
|Alex Glenn||11||11||Corey Harawira-Naera|
|Matt Gillett||12||12||Isaah Yeo|
|Josh McGuire||13||13||Trent Merrin|
|David Mead||14||14||Sione Katoa|
|Jai Arrow||15||15||Bryce Cartwright|
|Joe Ofahengaue||16||16||Moses Leota|
|Herman Ese’ese||17||17||James Fisher-Harris|
|Darius Boyd||18||18||Jarome Luai|
|Jaydn Su’A||19||19||Viliame Kikau|
|Jamayne Isaako||20||20||Sitaleki Akauola|
|Tevita Pangai Junior||21||21||Jed Cartwright|
The Facts That Matter
Much of the good Brisbane put together in attack comes through their star representative fullback Darius Boyd and Broncos fans everywhere will be sweating on his return to fitness. Named amongst the Reserves, Boyd has been rehabbing an injured hamstring and could be a huge boost for the Broncos if he’s included in a back line reshuffle.
Elsewhere in the squad, heavy-hitter Tevita Pangai Junior also has a chance of making his return from a hamstring injury of his own, potentially adding some serious starch to a Broncos defence which has come under scrutiny in recent weeks.
Brisbane will be reliant on their right edge in attack, with that side providing 44 tries so far in 2017. Almost half of their four-pointers have come courtesy of the strong work of Jordan Kahu and James Roberts. Roberts in particular could relish a matchup with the Panthers’ left flank, which has been exposed in defence at times this season.
Griffin has had the luxury of naming an unchanged line-up from the one that dismissed the Sea Eagles, with media reports of Matt Moylan’s imminent return quashed.
Penrith proved the doubters wrong with a big 22-10 win in the first week of the finals, where they ended Manly’s season amid plenty of controversy, much of which has since been proven invalid.
Consistency has been hard to come by for Penrith. Their wins and losses have come in clumps while they have struggled to put in 80 minute performances. In a glass half empty school of thought, that inconsistency could prove costly against a side good enough to finish third through the regular season. However, Penrith have gotten this far without piecing it altogether and that says plenty about the talent they possess.
The Panthers have managed 33 four-pointers in the final 20 minutes of their games this season, so if the game is close, the fast-finishing Penrith side could relish the chance to storm home against another more-fancied opponent this weekend.
This game shapes up as a potential clash for the ages, with both sides capable of elegant attack and some uncompromising defence. My gut feeling is the Panthers could sneak it out in a tight game, while my head tends to lean toward the Broncos.
The only solution will come through sitting on the fence. Game to be decided in golden point extra time.
Who do you think will win this sudden-death final, the Broncos or the Panthers? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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