Brisbane Broncos v Penrith Panthers – 7.50pm (AEST), Thursday, April 27 @ Suncorp Stadium
The Storyline: The overriding narrative is how desperate the Panthers are after a 2-6 start. There were signs of improvement in their fight-back against the Eels last week, but generally the firepower-laden, off-the-cuff juggernaut that lit up the back-end of 2016 has been a disjointed mess this season. Meanwhile, the Broncos are 5-3 – but that could so easily be the inverse after being booted up the arse by a rainbow in the past fortnight. Following their late escape against the Titans, they rode a couple of refereeing blunders to a jammy win over the Rabbitohs; they need to be better.
— Brisbane Broncos (@brisbanebroncos) April 26, 2017
The Stat: The Broncos have lost four of their last five against the Panthers, who are gunning for three straight wins over the Broncos for the first time since 1990 – and their first-ever back-to-back victories at Suncorp.
It’s a big game for: Trent Merrin was considered the luckiest player to retain his Test jump when the Kangaroos squad was read out yesterday – he has been a shadow of the buy-of-the-year contender he was throughout 2016 for the Panthers. He engages in a No.13 battle with Josh McGuire, an unlucky omission from last year’s Four Nations tour and a player in superb form in 2017.
“Trent Merrin & Blake Ferguson aren’t in my NSW state of origin side” – Matty Johns
— Triple M Grill Team (@GrillTeam) April 26, 2017
Last time they met: The Panthers’ late-season charge continued with a 31-12 walloping of the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium in Round 20 last year, with currently under-pressure duo Merrin and Matt Moylan both crossing for tries.
The Verdict: The Panthers have recognised it’s nearing do-or-die time, heading up north early for a camp on the Gold Coast in the lead-up to this showdown. The talent is there, and they are the type of side that can turn their form around on the back of one flash of brilliance…but the recent signs haven’t been good. This Broncos side is ripe for the picking – they’ve been inconsistent across 80 minutes as a team, while there’s several players performing below their best on a weekly basis – but the heavyweights have honed their ability to get the job done in the clutch, which provides them with the edge against the desperate, confidence-sapped visitors tonight. Broncos by 4