This time last year the Dragons had plenty of pundits talking up their premiership prospects.

It’s only round three but crunch time has come early for Paul McGregor’s team with Thursday night’s crucial road game against Brisbane.

Everything was going to plan in the first half of last week’s home meeting with Souths, but the Rabbitohs quickly changed that, overturning a 12-6 half-time deficit with 28 unanswered points in the second half.

It doesn’t get any easier this week, though the Dragons will have happy memories of their most recent visit to Suncorp Stadium – a 48-18 demolition of the Broncos in last year’s elimination final.

Brisbane were all business in last week’s clinical 29-10 home win over the Cowboys and Anthony Seibold will be looking for more of the same on Thursday against a team down on confidence.

Match: Broncos v Dragons

Round 3 -

Full Time
Broncos

Home Team

Broncos

Scored 24 points
Dragons

Away Team

Dragons

Scored 25 points

Venue: Suncorp Stadium

Match broadcasters:

  • Nine Network
  • Foxtel
  • LIVE PASS

The Rundown

Team news

Broncos: Not surprisingly, coach Anthony Seibold has retained the same team that handled the Cowboys 29-10 last week, with all 17 players getting through the game unscathed. Payne Haas and Matt Lodge are unavailable through suspension. Patrick Mago and Izaia Perese dropped off the extended bench 24 hours before kick-off. Patrick Carrigan and Gehamat Shibasaki were omitted an hour before kick-off.

Dragons: In a late change Zac Lomax came into the side for Matt Dufty. In the only other change to last week's side Korbin Sims returns from injury and has taken Josh Kerr's place on the bench. No sign of a return for Origin back-rower Tyson Frizell, who remains out indefinitely with a lacerated testicle. Reece Robson and Jonus Pearson dropped out of the 19-man squad on Wednesday night. Mitch Allgood was omitted an hour before kick-off.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Broncos is number 1 Darius Boyd
    Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Gareth Widdop
  • Winger for Broncos is number 2 Corey Oates
    Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jordan Pereira
  • Centre for Broncos is number 3 James Roberts
    Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan Aitken
  • Centre for Broncos is number 4 Jack Bird
    Centre for Dragons is number 4 Timoteo Lafai
  • Winger for Broncos is number 5 Jamayne Isaako
    Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele Ravalawa
  • Five-Eighth for Broncos is number 6 Anthony Milford
    Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey Norman
  • Halfback for Broncos is number 7 Kodi Nikorima
    Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben Hunt

Forwards

  • Prop for Broncos is number 8 Tevita Pangai Junior
    Prop for Dragons is number 8 James Graham
  • Hooker for Broncos is number 9 Andrew McCullough
    Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnes
  • Prop for Broncos is number 10 Joe Ofahengaue
    Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul Vaughan
  • 2nd Row for Broncos is number 11 Alex Glenn
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Jacob Host
  • 2nd Row for Broncos is number 12 David Fifita
    2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims
  • Lock for Broncos is number 13 Matt Gillett
    Lock for Dragons is number 13 Blake Lawrie

Interchange

  • Interchange for Broncos is number 14 Kotoni Staggs
    Interchange for Dragons is number 14 Jeremy Latimore
  • Interchange for Broncos is number 15 Jaydn Su'A
    Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Korbin Sims
  • Interchange for Broncos is number 16 Thomas Flegler
    Interchange for Dragons is number 17 Luciano Leilua
  • Interchange for Broncos is number 17 Shaun Fensom
    Interchange for Dragons is number 18 Zac Lomax

Key match-up

With the Dragons missing key men in the pack, experienced backrower Tariq Sims has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders against the powerful and mobile Brisbane forwards. Ditto for Paul Vaughan. They need to lead from the front – a la James Graham – and meet the likes of Tevita Pangai and David Fifita head-on or the Broncos will have an easy night at the office.

For the Broncos to win

Pangai was at his destructive best in 44 high-impact minutes of game-time in the all-Queensland derby with the Cowboys and Seibold pushed all the right buttons from the coach’s box with his use of the interchange bench. They’ll be wary of a desperate Dragons but the same game plan should hold the Broncos in good stead. Seibold will be counting on re-born Jack Bird (four line-break assists in two games) to maintain his good form.

For the Dragons to win

Going on the form guide, the Dragons will need to produce something special to avoid a disastrous 0-3 start. An upset certainly isn’t out of the question, but first and foremost the visitors will have to play the full 80 minutes rather than the 30 or 40 they managed in the opening two rounds. Ben Hunt and Corey Norman have shown promising signs here and there that their combination will ultimately click and McGregor will be banking on the pair to prove themselves or Gareth Widdop’s move to fullback will be short-lived.

Brett Kimmorley says ...

We saw Tevita Pangai jnr make a statement and put his hand up for Origin last week. It is now about him being able to repeat that performance. On the back of that, Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford were able to manage the game a little bit better. The biggest thing for the Dragons is they need to be able to play for the full 80 minutes. I thought they were really good for 40 minutes last week but then extremely poor. They need to be tougher when the game is on the line. Broncos by 10

Broncos Stat Attack

If you need actual proof big winger Corey Oates has started the season like a man possessed, these numbers tell the story: four tries (first in NRL), 14 tackle breaks (2nd), four line breaks (1st), 381 run metres (2nd). Needless to say, Oates looms as a giant headache for the Dragons on Thursday.

Dragons Stat Attack

Not a lot to smile about for the Dragons thus far but you can bet the Brisbane outside backs will be reminding each other all night to make ball-and-all tackles on Tim Lafai, who is equal-second in the NRL in off-loads (7). Winger Jordan Pereira has also been a handful with three line-break assists (2nd), while Vaughan loves a decoy run (20, 2nd).

And another thing ...

A few Broncos fans were perplexed by Anthony Milford’s decision to kick a fairly meaningless field goal in the dying seconds of his team’s 29-10 defeat of the Cowboys. The home-town supporters could sense a try building with players lined up on the right side and wanted the Broncos to make one more statement after Cowboys centre Justin O’Neill scored in the 70th minute. But Milford denied the fans a final highlight when he opted for an anti-climactic field goal, which was a little surprising given the result wasn’t in doubt.