Broncos v Dragons preview - 2017 Round 24
Dragons face their toughest examination as they travel north to take on a rampaging Broncos side that have rocketed up to second place in the last month.
It seems that Wayne Bennett has unlocked the Broncos attack in the last month - the Queensland side has scored 140 points in their last four games - which included a 54 point thrashing of the Titans, so the attacking weapons of the Broncos including centre James Roberts, Anthony Milford and KodiNikorima are ready to strike.
There is also the underlying storyline of Ben Hunt - the halfback is off to the Dragons next year so he will be primed put on a performance to end his future employer's finals hopes. Further adding to the Saints dim prospectsis their woeful record up at Suncorp - the joint-venture side hasn't won there since 2009.
For the Dragons - their finals hopes still rest in the fate of other teams (namely Penrith and the Cowboys) but the insertion of utility Kurt Mann into the halves was the remedy they needed as the attack finally looked cohesive in a 42-16 win.
Coach Paul McGregor will be upset at the nature of those 16 points. The Titans scored some soft tries right down the middle of the big Dragons pack. The Broncos have a similarly imposing pack and Tevita Pangai Junior if he can find space might run riot across the field.
Who to watch: It is continuing on course for the Broncos - they have been a point-scoring machine in recent weeks and a lot of that has come down to Anony Milford. It would be easy to single out te halves though - the big clash is in the forwards, Queensland and Broncos prop Josh McGuire has racked up almost 3000 metres over the season coming up against fellow metre-eater Paul Vaughan so if he can get the Broncos over the advantage line it will give the backs the room to sparkle.
Simply put the Dragons need Gareth Widdop to fire if they are to do anything Friday night. The five-eighth is the lynch pin of the attack so when the Dragons were on their losing trot, Widdop followed as he tried too hard to get them back on track. He has 17 try-assists for the season with 10 four-pointers of his own - so if the saints are to change their fortunes up north, he has to direct the forward pack around and limit the metres of the electric Broncos backline with his kicking game.
The favourite: It has to be home side. They hold a historical advantage over the Saints alongside having the best attack in the last month - so they should do it handily against the top eight hopefuls and continue their run into the finals.
1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Tautau Moga 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Korbin Sims 14. Sam Thaiday 10. Adam Blair 11. Alex Glenn 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh Mcguire 9. Ben Hunt 15. Tevita Pangai 16. Jai Arrow 17. Herman Essese
1. Matthew Dufty 3. Josh Dugan 21. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Kurt Mann 14. Tariq Sims 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Joel Thompson 13. Jack de Belin 8. Leeson Ah Mau 16. Blake Lawrie 18. Josh McCrone 19. Will Matthews