Cowboys v Broncos PREVIEW

NRL.COM PREVIEW

Cowboys v Broncos XXXX Derby
Friday March 16, 7.05pm AEST (8.05pm AEDT), Suncorp Stadium

The Broncos were never seriously in the hunt in the season-opening loss to the Dragons, and perhaps the most troubling aspect of their performance for coach Wayne Bennett was the uncharacteristically poor attention to defensive detail.

Brisbane fans will no doubt expect a far more committed effort against the Cowboys, with fullback Lachlan Coote (hamstring) is an outside chance of returning. The Broncos won't see prized off-season signing Jack Bird (shoulder) in action until round four.

The selections

Wayne Bennett has not hit the panic button despite his team's heavy 34-12 defeat last Thursday night at Jubilee Oval. Andrew McCullough has been named to start at hooker for the Broncos, with Sam Thaiday shifted to prop. Tom Opacic replaces the suspended Jayd'n Su'A.

Te Maire Martin again starts at five-eighth for the Cowboys, with Michael Morgan (abdominal strain) not to be risked by Paul Green. Corey Jensen joins John Asiata, Coen Hess and Scott Bolton on an imposing four-man interchange bench.

The key match-up: Te Maire Martin v Anthony Milford. With Michael Morgan unlikely to play, it will be a battle between the five-eighths and whoever of Martin and Milford can rise to the top could decide the game.

For the Broncos to win: Easy. Limit Johnathan Thurston. Whether it's by stopping the Cowboys' forwards or pressuring him relentlessly, the Broncos must stop Thurston.

For the Cowboys to win: Execute well. It doesn't have to be perfect, but the Cowboys need to convert more try-scoring opportunities into tries scored.

Broncos Stat Attack: They must improve their simple game against the Cowboys. They had 14 errors and 35 missed tackles against the Dragons. Their job won't get any easier against the Cowboys' massive pack, so the Broncos will need to improve.

Cowboys Stat Attack: The Cowboys only completed at 66 per cent against the Sharks; they'll need to do better to beat the Broncos on home turf.

And another thing: Michael Morgan's fitness could be the difference, his presence on the field could split the game wide open, or be the difference in extra point, given the history of the last few years between these sides it's impossible to tell.

Prediction: Cowboys by 6.

Broncos: 1 Darius Boyd (c), 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 4 Jordan Kahu, 5 Jamayne Isaako, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Tevita Pangai Jnr, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 Matt Gillett, 13 Josh McGuire. Interchange: 14 Sam Thaiday, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Korbin Sims, 17 Tom Opacic. Reserves: 18 Todd Murphy, 19 Sam Tagataese, 20 Jonus Pearson, 21 George Fai. 

The above team is subject to change one hour before kick-off.

Cowboys: 1 Ben Hampton, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Justin O'Neill, 4 Javid Bowen, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 14 Te Maire Martin, 7 Johnathan Thurston (c), 8 Matthew Scott (c), 9 Jake Granville, 10 Jordan McLean, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Ethan Lowe, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 John Asiata, 15 Coen Hess, 16 Scott Bolton, 18 Corey Jensen. Reserves: 18 Kyle Laybutt, 19 Michael Morgan, 20 Francis Molo, 21 Enari Tuala.

The above team is subject to change one hour before kick-off.

Head-to-head: 48 games, Broncos 31 wins, Cowboys 15 wins, 2 draws

Matches at the venue: 14 games, Broncos 9 wins, Cowboys 5 wins

Last five games: Cowboys 3 wins, Broncos 2 wins 

2017 matches: Cowboys won 21-20 in round 2; Broncos won 20-10 in round 26

2017 points per game: Broncos 24.9; Cowboys 19.5

2017 points conceded per game: Broncos 18; Cowboys 18.5

Televised: Nine, Fox League, NRL Live Pass