Round 5: Sea Eagles v Broncos preview
Two sides coming off agonising but very different last-start defeats look to bounce back
A controversial decision denied the Sea Eagles a stunning last-gasp win over the Eels last week.
Compared to the Broncos, who are in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Des Hasler's side continue to fly under the radar - just how he likes it. Sure, they are being mooted by some for a top-four finish but not getting nearly the same amount of attention as the likes of Parramatta, Canberra and Newcastle.
Hasler has instilled a hard edge in the Manly squad - the sort of resilience the Broncos are in desperate need of at the moment. The Sea Eagles currently have the fourth-best defensive record in the competition, a complete contrast to Brisbane whose record is only better than the Titans.
Manly enter Thursday's game with an unchanged line-up.
Heading into the fourth round of the competition, all the pressure was placed squarely on two men - Paul McGregor and Dean Pay.
But after a record-breaking defeat to the Roosters, another coach has suddenly been placed under the microscope. And at one of the most successful and proud clubs in the NRL, Anthony Seibold will need answers - and fast.
Brisbane's 59-0 loss last Thursday night was nothing short of diabolical.
Statistics aren't always the best indicator for how a game went but the numbers didn't lie in this case and it wasn't pleasant reading for Seibold.
A 57 per cent completion rate, one line break to 11 and 869 running metres to 1745 are just a few. When put together, it left the baby Broncos with just 63 per cent of the ball. Brisbane's youthful forward pack may have been their greatest strength heading into 2020 but Thursday night showed it can also be their greatest weakness.
A lack of mental resilience cost Seibold's men dearly and it doesn't get any easier this week. It has prompted a host of changes with Corey Oates moving to the back row. Xavier Coates comes in on the wing while Kotoni Staggs returns in place of Jesse Arthars. Matt Lodge and Joe Ofahengaue also join the starting pack while Ben Te'o makes his return to Red Hill.
Who to watch: The battle up front is one to look out for but the performances of the two number sevens will likely decide this game. On the one hand you have Daly Cherry-Evans - who I believe to be the most well-rounded playmaker in the game. A natural leader, he is the exact kind of calming influence Brisbane need as they scramble to rebound from last week's horror loss. Brodie Croft, on the other hand, is only just starting to warm into his leadership role at the Broncos. He came over as the club's solution to their halfback woes but his form has been inconsistent. To be fair, that can be said for the entire side and their pack didn't exactly lay him much of a platform last week. But he faces one of his biggest challenges in his early career on Thursday in the form of a DCE-led Sea Eagles outfit.
The favourite: The Sea Eagles are heavy favourites here.
My tip: Manly have to be very careful here or they risk falling victim to a Brisbane boilover. I wouldn't rule out the chance of that happening but at the moment the Broncos are unbackable. With Cherry-Evans steering the ship, the Sea Eagles should do this comfortably. Sea Eagles by 16.