Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
The Dragons are off to a shaky start and Brisbane has them firmly in their sight
It was a 48-18 result the St. George Illawarra Dragons handed down at Suncorp Stadium in the 2018 quarterfinals to emphatically end the Brisbane Broncos' season.
Brisbane led 10-2 after 18 minutes and the Dragons played inspiring football as underdogs on the back of a Tariq Sims first-half hat-trick.
From a results perspective, it propelled the Broncos into a tumultuous off-season capped off by the controversial firing of coach Wayne Bennett and hiring of Anthony Seibold.
The new coach may not have been first hand for the loss, but 12 players remain on Brisbane's squad to face St George this weekend all high on confidence after stamping their authority on the Queensland derby.
What a match that was, or the first 51 minutes at least. They gained a 24-0 lead on the North Queensland Cowboys with contributors all over the park against a team that beat the Dragons 24-12 in round one.
Meanwhile St George hasn't had much to cheer about since their triumph over the Broncos in the quarterfinals.
Their fans were standing and applauding at half-time with a 12-6 lead against the Rabbitohs last week, Jordan Pereira scored a double, but a 34-18 defeat ensued. Covering for the absence of Tyson Frizell and Jack de Belin is proving to be a big challenge.
The Dragons have stood under the posts a lot, only the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have conceded more points than St George in the first two rounds.
The only team change from last week for the Dragons is Tariq Sims coming on the bench for Josh Kerr.
Brisbane is named to play the same 17 that beat North Queensland.
Last meeting: Finals Week 1 2018 - Broncos 18 Dragons 48
Who to watch: Tevita Pangai Junior was the emotional leader of Brisbane's forward pack against the Cowboys, it somewhat overshadowed the value of the impact made by rookie prop Thomas Flegler. If you're looking for attacking flare from the Broncos you can't go past players like Pangai Jnr, Corey Oates and sometimes Anthony Milford; but in terms of contributing to winning in a pressure game Flegler produced in his second NRL match. With Matt Lodge suspended, the forward pack was identified as a spot of weakness. Flegler in 37 minutes ran more metres than any other player, made a linebreak and didn't miss any of his 22 tackles.
How much longer will coach Paul McGregor persist with Gareth Widdop at fullback? St George's best player isn't thriving in the role and there have been mixed signals about whether Widdop is enjoying the new position. If the Dragons need some inspiration or a change at half-time in this match, McGregor could shift Widdop to five-eighth, Matt Dufty to fullback and Corey Norman to the bench.
The favourite: The Broncos are firmly the favourites for this clash as they take on a winless Dragons side missing key forwards. St George is not close to the best football they played last season. Brisbane has won eleven of the last 14 matches against the Dragons.
My tip: Seibold's old team the South Sydney Rabbitohs scored 34 points against the Dragons last week, using Sam Burgess and company on the left edge to expose the lack of chemistry in defence. Burgess scored two tries and set another up. David Fifita is playing that position on Thursday and can inflict similar punishment. With key players missing, a leaky defence and new combinations struggling it will be too difficult for St George to beat Brisbane off a big win and seeking revenge. Broncos by 14.
1. Darius Boyd 2. Corey Oates 3. James Roberts 4. Jack Bird 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Anthony Milford 7. Kodi Nikorima 8. Tevita Pangai 9. Andrew McCullough 10. Joe Ofahengaue 11. Alex Glenn 12. David Fifita 13. Matt Gillett 14. Kotoni Staggs 15. Jaydn Su'a 16. Thomas Flegler 17. Shaun Fensom
1. Gareth Widdop 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Timoteo Lafai 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Ben Hunt 8. James Graham 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Jacob Host 12. Tariq Sims 13. Blake Lawrie 14. Jeremy Latimore 16. Korbin Sims 17. Luciano Leilua 18. Zac Lomax
Referees: Ben Cummins, Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski; Sideline Officials: Chris Butler, Belinda Sleeman; Video Referees: Ashley Klein, Bryan Norrie;