NRL Tips expert analyst Steve Green brings you his NRL preview of the Thursday night clash between the Brisbane Broncos and Cronulla Sharks.
Both teams were last start winners, however the Broncos were certainly the more convincing of the two. In fact, if the NRL referees didn’t absolutely destroy the Raiders chances, then the Sharks would have most likely gone down to a second half come back from the Raiders.
So, I think the odds for this match would be a lot different if that was the case and in such circumstances, there is often value on offer.
While the Sharks head into this with three wins on the trot, it is worth exploring those wins a little closer.
Their win 3 weeks ago was against the Warriors and it was on the back of a forward pass that went unnoticed in the 79th minute of the match.
Their win 2 weeks ago was against a Panthers team that rested all their Origin stars and had another 5 key players out injured.
Then, as discussed, last week they were again fortunate to sneak home against to the Raiders courtesy of dubious refereeing decisions.
The Broncos have won 4 from their last 5, but their form is also patchy.
A fortnight ago, the Warriors tore them to pieces.
About a month ago, the Broncos came very close to losing to the Raiders in Brisbane.
5 weeks ago, the Broncos beat the Sharkies thanks to a forward pass of their own, this one to Corey Oates to win the game.
Going off recent wins and losses is therefore very hard. That is why I place much more emphasis on trends in player data over the course of the season. On that basis, these teams match up pretty well.
While Moylan is getting better with time and the likes of Fifita, Ramien and Townsend keep delivering, the Broncos forward pack is getting better and better off the back of performances from Tevita Pangai, Lodge and Joe O. Even the older fellas like Thaiday, Glenn and Sims have been contributing, so I think the Broncos actually have an edge in the forwards.
Out wide, I like the change that Coach Bennett made. Boyd was at lethal at 1 as he has been in past years and Isaako is an excitement machine that needed to be given more opportunity to shine. With Kahu, Roberts and Oates, the Broncos have some handy finishers out wide.
Whereas the Sharks really need to get Josh Dugan back from his long layoff. The Sharks desperately need a strike weapon out wide – because although Val Holmes is dynamite at present and Ramien is a game breaker, after those two the Sharks are a little light on for strike try scorers.
While Milford is clearly the star half, he has more help from Nikorima in recent weeks and McCullough is also getting better with each game he plays following his debut Origin series.
Although they were horrible against the Warriors a fortnight ago and will have to improve a lot over the next 6 weeks of regular season footy, I do think that the Broncos will be a force to be reckoned with in September and should continue to mount a late season charge towards the top 4.