UPDATED: If anyone saw the Broncos as one of two undefeated teams along with the Dragons after two rounds , they’re full of shit. They were towelled up twice in the trials and spent all their money on a prop and a fullback when they needed a half after losing two.
Yet they’re hustling and scrambling their way to two quality wins somehow, even though their current halfback couldn’t kick a beachball into the ocean while standing on the shoreline.
Meanwhile, the Roosters couldn’t break skin with a hatchet let alone the line with a run in round one, but dusted off the cobwebs and broke the line 13 times the next week. If they get past the halfway point of that mark, even by one, they will have equalled the Broncos’ line break total for the entire year.
And to be honest, the Roosters’ ideal consistent performance lies somewhere between their outputs in rounds one and two — which should be enough to secure a win against an overachieving team.
Team for Round 3: Anthony Minichiello, Daniel Tupou, Michael Jennings, Shaun Kenny-Dowall, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Jake Friend, Sam Moa, Boyd Cordner, Mitchell Aubusson, Frank-Paul Nu’uasala. Interchange: (from) Daniel Mortimer, Aidan Guerra, Kane Evans, Dylan Napa, Siosiua Taukeiaho.
The Roosters have named an unchanged side from last week’s 56-4 massacre at Allianz. In that game, Remi Casty — originally named in jersey 16 — made way at the last minute for Dylan Napa, who put a poor round one behind him with a measured, destructive game against the Eels forwards. Casty has not been named on an extended bench this week thanks to a calf injury. Sonny Bill Williams is out until round five.
It’s the Roosters’ first game up at Suncorp Stadium since round 20 back in 2010. The Roosters, then coached by Brian Smith and captained by Braith Anasta, won 34-30 with Shaun Kenny-Dowall crossing for four tries.
It’s safe to say the Roosters’ attack is back to its best after last week, when they scored all their tries without the benefit of a kick. All up they had 10 tries, 13 line breaks, 46 tackle breaks, seven line break assists and seven try assists. It was magnificent to watch, but they face an entirely different defensive line this week.
How they’ll play
The Broncos have so far allowed just four line breaks this year, and none by outside backs — which suggests some short plays around the ruck through the likes of Friend, Moa, Cordner and Aubusson could be on the cards. Expect Friend especially to run it more in this game than he did last week when he ran it just once — albeit for 15 metres.
Will SKD repeat his Suncorp theatrics from four years ago? It’s unlikely, but he does serve as the key man out wide. He’ll attack the side that sports Josh Hoffman, a player forced into a five-eighth role at the last minute and who has struggled a bit with reads now that he’s forced to make more tackles than he ever has.
Hoffman missed six tackles last week and can be caught shirt-grabbing, so some quick flat balls from Mitchell Pearce could work wonders — especially if SKD can continue his red-hot and direct running game. He’s averaging 119.5 metres off 14.5 runs through the first two games, and with SBW out he’s the likely x-factor out there outside Mitch Aubusson against one of the few weaknesses in this rejuvenated Broncos defence.
But second-phase play is critical against the Broncos — it’s the game where SBW would have proven his worth and then some — as their defensive line is quick off the line and flat. It’s potentially prone to misreads when they are back-pedalling, especially in the 30 metre zone.
With that in mind, JWH needs to find a way to get that arm free (he has just two offloads this year) while Mini/RTS need to support Aubusson on the right edge. Aubo has a sneaky good through-the-line offload and should he run straight at Hoffman or between him and his man there could be some action.
Team for Round 3: Ben Barba, Daniel Vidot, Jack Reed, Dale Copley, Lachlan Maranta, Josh Hoffman, Ben Hunt, Martin Kennedy, Andrew McCullough, Corey Parker (c), Alex Glenn, Sam Thaiday, Matt Gillett. Interchange: David Hala, , Todd Lowrie, Jarrod Wallace, Corey Oates.
The Broncos have lost Josh McGuire to suspension, and now they’ve lost his replacement, Ben Hannant, to a hamstring injury.
Both injuries open up the door for Marty Kennedy to start in his first game against his former club, and Roosters players are reportedly aiming to give him some extra sauce — because that worked out so well when they played Beau Ryan and the Sharks last year.
The Broncos have developed a steely defensive resolve that has so far limited the Cowboys and Bulldogs to just 12 points each. But they’ve only mustered 34 points to counter that — enough to win both games, but still six points fewer than the Roosters scored in the second half against the Eels.
How they’ll play
As mentioned, they have been scrappy in defence but out of necessity, because their attack is simply poor this year. Ben Hunt is relied on to do the overwhelming majority of the kicking, and he’s an average kicker at best.
At least twice in their win against the Cowboys he put up a mid-field bomb that went straight up and down like a stripper on a pole, but without the theatrics. Or the boners.
Regardless, they are finding their way across the line just enough to win, and are doing so with a largely flat attack on the fringes and constant motion from all runners. They’ve scored just six tries all year — or one less than the Roosters scored in the second half last week against the Eels –and five of those have been from the centres or wingers.
That’s likely the way they’ll attack the Roosters and Daniel Vidot looms as a threat out wide, coming up against SKD and either Mini or RTS on the left.
He’s a huge but agile man with a powerful running game, and he gets involved — he’s averaging 152.5 metres a game through two rounds and has scored a try in each game, one a powerful effort over the Corey Thompson of the Bulldogs,and the second from a deft stab-through from Hoffman against the Cowboys.
And it’s that second try that worries me.
Against the Eels, in the first half at least, RTS and/or Mini were caught out on a few occasions by a grubber behind the line or a chip. One led to a try to Radradra and the other would have but for a late fumble.
Hoffman and Barba look like they split the five-eighth duties, with Hoff on the left and Barba on the right — and both have had success this year in putting a grubber behind the defence.
They are likely to repeat the dosage against the Roosters, especially early in the tackle count with Vidot the likely target.
The Roosters will (or should) be aware of this when defending around the halfway line or so, but on the line is more difficult because their turnaround times are limited more and there’s no opportunity to chase.
Their forwards are their main strength however. Gillett is just excellent as a bump-off forward with an offload, as is Corey Parker — a 26 Rounds fave — and Sam Thaiday. The Roosters will need to wrap the ball up and limit the plays to one phase.
There’s also little doubt they’ll target James Maloney in defence after he claimed eight of the Roosters’ 25 missed tackles last week.
The Roosters’ true attacking prowess lies somewhere between the round one eight-point effort and the 56 points they put on the Eels. They played some exceptional football last week — but again, it was the Eels. The Broncos have scrambled in their defence better than most clubs in the competition, and the Roosters repeating last week’s effort just isn’t likely, especially up at Suncorp.
The Broncos have a shitload to prove, and they are playing like it. If they wanted to prove they have what it takes, the best time to do it is against the defending premiers.
But the Roosters should win. They have too much class, too many attacking options across the entire field and it’s too soon since the wake-up call from the Rabbitohs.
The Roosters have every shot at holding the Broncos to nil for a second time in as many years. In fact, I’m calling it.
Man of the Match will be either SKD or Mitch Aubusson. Both were phenomenal last week and if the Roosters end up targeting Hoffman, these are the two men to reap the rewards.