Round 5: Broncos v Wests Tigers preview
Last-start losers look to bounce back in style
With both sides coming into Thursday night's contest off the back of vastly different losses, the Brisbane Broncos will be out to save face on home soil against a Wests Tigers outfit hoping to overcome a woeful record opposite the Queensland powerhouse club.
Offering little resistance in a 36-4 thrashing at the hands of the defending premiers at the Sydney Cricket Ground, coach Anthony Seibold will be banking on the bounce-back factor coming into play, with the Broncos having won their past three regular season matches after losing the previous week by more than 30 points.
Holding a strike rate just under 80 per cent against the Western Suburbs - Balmain merger with 21 wins and a draw from 27 clashes, defence will be particularly important for Brisbane after conceding 93 points over the opening month - their worst defensive start to a season since 2010.
Losing in-demand forward Tevita Pangai Jr for a fortnight due to dangerous contact on Cooper Cronk, 21-year-old prop Patrick Carrigan will make his first grade debut off the bench, while highly-rated forward Payne Haas could be a late inclusion to make his first appearance in 11 months after serving a four-match ban for failing to comply with the NRL Integrity Unit.
Getting the better of Penrith for 79 minutes last Friday, the Wests Tigers will need to reconcile the disappointment of losing in golden point if they hope to avoid a third successive loss.
Seemingly doing enough to come away with two competition points at the foot of the mountain despite an off night with boot from Esan Marsters and several field goals going astray, coach Michael Maguire will be stressing the importance of drawing positives from the 9-8 defeat in order to achieve a rare win at Suncorp Stadium.
Managing four wins from 11 appearances at the venue, including three decided by two points or less, the Tigers will be aiming to defy a success rate just under 50 per cent in the week following golden point matches, as they look to avenge last year's controversial 9-7 loss to Brisbane at Campbelltown.
Making minimal changes from the squad beaten by Penrith, Josh Aloiai has been elevated at lock with Elijah Taylor relegated to the extended bench, allowing rookie Thomas Mikaele to return in jersey 15 after missing last Friday. With Benji Marshall still sidelined through injury, Josh Reynolds will play consecutive games at five-eighth for the first time since August 2017.
Last meeting: Round 3 2018 - Wests Tigers 7 Broncos 9
Who to watch: Coming under scrutiny for a perceived lack of defensive intent over the opening four rounds, Darius Boyd will be out to silence his critics with a big showing at home on Thursday night. Labelled ‘soft' by numerous ex-players for failing to put his body on the line against the Roosters, the 31-year-old fullback has been far from the only player to leave Brisbane supporters wanting during the opening month of Anthony Seibold's tenure, but given his relationship with long-standing coach Wayne Bennett, the Broncos captain has been subject to additional claims of struggling to perform on the field. Approaching 300 NRL games later this month, look for Boyd to give a strong account of himself with several try assists and a four-pointer of his own for good measure.
Missing three shots at goal that ultimately proved telling in the loss to Penrith, Esan Marsters looms as a danger man for the Broncos to contain on the right edge. Facing off against Jack Bird in a key personal duel, the 22-year-old New Zealand and Cook Islands international has experienced a rapid rise over the past year to become the Tigers preferred goal kicker, yet after missing his past five kicks, the scrutiny that comes with taking on such an important responsibility shapes as the making or breaking of the Auckland native. Currently on a nine game try-scoring drought, look for Marsters to cause plenty of chaos on Thursday night to give the visitors their first win at Suncorp since 2016.