Desperate Broncos look to spring upset as Panthers visit town

James Fisher-Harris in action against the Cowboys. Photo: NRL Photos.
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There is no doubt that Brisbane will welcome Penrith to Suncorp Stadium this Friday night with revenge somewhere in their minds.

While last year’s Grand Finalists have already met once since that famous night at Accor Stadium last October, the Broncos would love nothing more than send Ivan Cleary’s side away with their tail between their legs this Friday.

That early season meeting saw Penrith easily walk away 34-12 winners, but plenty has happened since then. Injuries have torn through both sides, with their respective halfbacks sidelined for lengthy periods.

Paul Alamoti does his best in the rain against the Cowboys. Photo: NRL Photos.

The ladder will tell you that the Panthers have handled the injury pressures better, with the three-time Premiers currently sitting second on the table, while the Broncos are outside the top eight.

A mixture of injuries, player losses and struggling to come back from that Grand Final defeat has really hampered Brisbane’s campaign this year, to the point where they haven’t won since back in late May.

If the Broncos are to make a run and keep their Premiership hopes alive, they must snap their four-game losing streak and upset the Panthers on Friday night.

Mitch Kenny in action against the Cowboys. Photo: NRL Photos.

It would be the kind of confidence-boosting win that could really kickstart their Finals tilt. Another loss would make it really tough for Kevin Walters’ side to make the top four, or even potentially the eight.

As for Penrith, last week’s loss to North Queensland at home was far from ideal. Another poor performance in the rain, and one that showed the side’s depth is not as strong as it has been in previous seasons.

As much as Brad Schneider has been a reasonable fill-in at times, he’s not a game manager and Penrith really lacked someone taking control of the contest at crucial stages last Sunday. The Panthers were gifted a 12-man Cowboys side twice in the game and couldn’t take advantage, mainly because the halves simply didn’t distribute enough quality ball out wide and couldn’t identify where the opportunity was in the Cowboys’ stretched defence.

Brad Schneider scored Penrith’s only try last weekend. Photo: NRL Photos.

Penrith will be a different team when Nathan Cleary returns, and once the other Origin representatives are back in the side. It’s a short window but Cleary should get the Panthers firing for that run home towards the Finals and then from there, you’d have to back the experience of the side to be a serious Premiership threat.

The Panthers will have Jarome Luai back calling the shots in the number seven jumper against the Broncos on Friday night and that should provide the side a little more direction.

With Brian To’o also back, the side should be able to get a better start to sets than what they had against the Cowboys for most of the game last weekend.

Jarome Luai. Photo: NRL Photos.

This run against Queensland teams (three in a row) is an intriguing one for the Panthers at a difficult point of the season, where Origin has taken its toll.

They wouldn’t have wanted to drop that game against the Cowboys on Sunday, and would have thought it was probably an easier scalp to get than that of the Broncos.

But Penrith has typically bounced back well from disappointment this season and I think they’ll be able to get the job done here.

Isaah Yeo in action against the Cowboys. Photo: NRL Photos.

Brisbane still have quality players across the park but the stocks are now running a little thin. Penrith’s forward pack is far superior and the Broncos have players out of position.

Tip: Panthers by 13.

Penrith and Brisbane play at Suncorp Stadium on Friday, July 5 at 8.05pm. The match is live on Fox League, Kayo and Nine.

Troy Dodds

Troy Dodds is the Weekender's Managing Editor and Breaking News Reporter. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia's leading media organisations. In 2023, he was named Editor of the Year at the Mumbrella Publish Awards.

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