Benji Marshall will make his long-awaited return to Campbelltown Stadium on Friday night as his Wests Tigers host his former team, the Brisbane Broncos. The Tigers are entering Friday's game riding two straight wins to open the season, while the Broncos bounced back last week after struggling in Round 1.
The Tigers have been one of the NRL's better teams to start the season after two 10-8 wins. The Tigers were tipped by many to start off 0-2, after facing two premiership contenders in the Sydney Roosters and the Melbourne Storm. The new-look Tigers have been very impressive, especially without star recruit Josh Reynolds, and they've shown a strong ability to to win the tight matches against formidable opponents. That will be a skill they'll need this week against the Broncos - another strong team who will be looking to hand the Tigers their first loss.
The Broncos bounced back from a disappointing showing in Round 1 to beat the North Queensland Cowboys in a tight 24-20 victory at home. The Broncos eased any fears about putting points on the board without Ben Hunt, and they go into this match against the Tigers as the better scorers. The Broncos will be looking to find some gaps in the Tigers' defence which has been near-invincible so far, as a low-scoring game will favour the Tigers. They'll also be looking to take advantage of what they know about Tigers star Benji Marshall, all the while hoping Marshall doesn't exploit what he knows about their system.
2017 - Round - Broncos def. Tigers 36-0
2016 - Round - Tigers def. Broncos 19-18
2015 - Round - Broncos def. Tigers 42-16
2014 - Round - Broncos def. Tigers 16-14
2013 - Round - Broncos def. Tigers 32-12
The Broncos have won four of the last five meetings between the two sides, with three of their four victories being big wins. The Broncos have won 20 of the 27 total meetings between the sides, the Tigers have won five, and there have been two draws. The Tigers will be looking to turn the tide of recent history on Friday night with a statement win.
|Wests Tigers||Brisbane Broncos|
|1||Corey Thompson||Darius Boyd ( C )|
|2||David Nofoaluma||Corey Oates|
|3||Esan Marsters||James Roberts|
|4||Kevin Naiqama||Jack Bird|
|5||Malakai Watene-Zelezniak||Jamayne Isaako|
|6||Benji Marshall ( C )||Anthony Milford|
|7||Luke Brooks||Kodi Nikorima|
|9||Pita Godinet||Andrew McCullough|
|10||Ben Matulino||Tevita Pangai Jnr|
|11||Chris Lawrence||Alex Glenn|
|12||Robbie Rochow||Matt Gillett|
|13||Matthew Eisenhuth||Josh McGuire|
|14||Matt McIlwrick||Tom Opacic|
|15||Alex Twal||Sam Thaiday|
|16||Michael Chee Kam||Joe Ofahengaue|
|17||Josh Aloiai||Korbin Sims|
|18||Tyson Gamble||Jayden S’Ua|
|19||Tim Grant||Todd Murphy|
The facts that matter
As each week passes in the early part of the season, the undefeated teams start to fall away until there are none left, and the Tigers need this win to continue their run. The Tigers have had two impressive wins which show they are legitimate competition, but two weeks isn't enough to scare any team. A win against another top-eight contender will show that the Tigers can rise to the occasion and win when the time calls for it.
Benji Marshall will be keen to return to Campbelltown where his first grade career started back in 2003, and a win against his former team will make it all the more sweet. After a pre-season injury to Reynolds, Marshall has proved that he can still lead an NRL team, and we've seen flashes of the superstar we knew prior to his departure for rugby. Ivan Cleary's men will be looking to Marshall for guidance, as he's got knowledge of Wayne Bennett's system in Brisbane.
The Broncos need this victory against the Tigers. We're by no means at a do-or-die point in the season, but falling to 1-2 against unlikely Premiership contenders will be a big blow to their morale. The Broncos showed their resilience last week, and it was a good sign that Round 1 was perhaps pre-season rust rather than anyone else. A win will prove to their doubters that they're still a winning team without Ben Hunt.
The Broncos have a number of good players who can challenge the Tigers defence, and they'll need to be on their game early. A slow start will allow the Tigers to control the pace of the game and turn it into a low-scoring grind. The Broncos' key to victory is scoring points early, and providing his year's Tigers with a challenge they haven't faced yet. The Tigers haven't allowed a lot of points yet this season, so, it will be interesting to see how their offence fares against a high-scoring team.
This match is a tough one to call, as it is truly a battle of offence vs defence. Each team has opposing strengths, and it will be a highly competitive encounter. This won't be a high-scoring affair, but I think the Broncos will put more than eight points on the board.
I'm picking the Tigers to win this one, but like their other matches, i think it will be a close one. The Tigers defence may struggle to completely contain the Broncos, but they'll do a good enough job. The Broncos won't put enough points on the board. Tigers to win 14-12.