A return to the winners’ circle for the Broncos as they beat the Warriors 27 – 18 in New Zealand.
In terms of the Broncos’ squad for the match, with Gillett and Nikorima ruled out through injury, Bird shifted into the halves with the solid but unspectacular Opacic coming into the centres alongside Roberts. To cover Gillett’s absence in the second row, Bennett promoted Sims to the starting lineup, with Tagatese being rewarded for his excellent Intrust Super Cup performances for the Norths Devils this season, with a call up to the bench. In a further late change Bennett dropped Pangai Jnr to the bench from one of the staring prop positions, in favour of the underperforming but experienced Thaiday.
As for the Broncos’ on field performance versus the Warriors, there was a significant improvement in the Broncos’ defence from the abysmal 42 missed tackles against the Knights the week prior. In total the Broncos missed 27 tackles versus the Warriors. While there is still room for improvement, the vast majority of the Broncos’ players recorded no more than 2 missed tackles for the match, which is an acceptable benchmark for a strong defensive side.
The Broncos’ defensive prospects were undoubtedly helped by the absence of Gillett and Nikorima from the side’s defensive line. Those two players alone have respectively missed an average of 4 and 3 tackles per match so far this season. While Glenn’s woeful defensive effort this season continued versus the Warriors with 6 missed tackles, the improved defensive efficency of Milford and Lodge (both of whom were averaging 3 missed tackles prior to the match) needs to be recognised. The biggest challenge for those 2 players is consistently delivering similarly solid defensive performances match on match.
In attack, a number of players made excellent run metres with Oates, Ofahengaue, McGuire and Lodge all individually contributing well in excess of 100 run metres for the match. There were also solid efforts from Glenn, Roberts and Opacic who each broke the 100 run metre barrier.
While Isaako’s effort in that regard was underwhelming, of more concern was the poor contribution of Su’A, Pangai Jnr, Sims and Thaiday, all of whom barely or failed to individually contribute more 50 run metres for the match. In terms of Tagatese’s contribution to run metres, it was difficult to judge given he was only afforded a handful of minutes on the field by Bennett.
The repeated lack of run metres from the likes of Su’A, Thaiday and Sims and Bennett’s refusal to give opportunities to the likes of Haas, Fai and Tagatese, who are all excelling in the Intrust Super Cup, is particularly concerning moving forward.
In terms of offloads, it was another
disappointing effort from the Broncos, with only 5 offloads for the match.
With the likes of Milford and Bird (and Nikorima when fit) not possessing the creative passing game of traditional halves to generate line breaks through their slight of hand with the ball, but all three players blessed with excellent footwork and acceleration, the Broncos need to generate a health number of offloads in each match to the create the second phase play and disorganisation in the opposition’s defence to allow the likes of Milford, Nikorima and Bird (when deployed in the halves) to showcase their strengths and individually break the opposition’s defensive line or to create simpler line break assist opportunities.
The Broncos failed in that regard versus the Warriors. As a consequence, Boyd (0 line breaks and 1 line break assist), Bird (0 line breaks and 1 line break assist), Milford (0 line breaks and line break assists) and McCullough (0 line breaks and line break assists) struggled to create.
Instead the Broncos’ attack was were very much indebted to moments of individual brilliance from Oates (3 line breaks), Roberts (1 line break) and Su’A (1 line break), who each broke the Warrior’s defensive line through excellent angled runs to either score a try or in the case or Roberts make the final pass to Isaako for the young winger to crash over.
From an attacking sustainability perspective, the Broncos’ reliance on individual players (e.g. Roberts, Oates, etc) to display moments of brilliance match after match in order for the team to score points, is a problem. It is simply unrealistic to expect those select players to repeatedly produce moments of brilliance match after match (and that’s not even taking into account the impact of injury and form). The Broncos need to develop their attacking strategy by playing to the strengths of their key playmakers (fullback, halves and hooker) and to regularly create line break and line break assist opportunities. Given the strengths of Milford and Nikorima (and Bird when deployed there) are in their footwork and acceleration, that means the Broncos should be looking to regularly offload the ball to create second phase football, disorganisation in the opponent’s defence and ensuing line break and line break assist opportunities for Milford, Nikorima and/or Bird to capitalise on.
When that starts happening in matches (and the Broncos have not demonstrated that thus far this season), they will become a much more dangerous and consistent attacking outlet.
In terms of the Bronco’s kicking game was a significant regression on their 725 kicking metres and 6 forced drop outs that they produced versus the Knights. In total the Broncos only kicked for 447 metres and only forced 2 drop outs for the match.
While some of that lack of production can be attributed to the absence of Nikorima, who has been averaging 112 kicking metres per game, and his replacement, Bird, lacking kicking skills, McCullough’s consistently poor kicking contribution this season needs to be addressed. An excellent short and long distance kicker, McCullough skills are not in question. But to only be averaging 57 kicking metres per game for a player with his kicking ability, indicates a significant underperformance from the player.
It is a facet of the Broncos’ attacking strategy that will need to improve moving forward, with most elite sides possessing at least 2 long kicking options and 2 short kicking options amongst their halves, hooker and fullback positional group.
Overall, it was a much improved defensive performance from the Broncos versus Warriors. If the side can reproduce that defensive effort in future matches, increase their kicking production, increase the volume of offloads amongst their forwards and increase the run metres from certain forwards and outside backs (or drop certain players for better performing players from the Intrust Super Cup), the Broncos can still mount a successful title charge despite their inauspicious start to the season.
The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.nrl.com.