Melbourne Storm v Brisbane Broncos @ Suncorp Stadium
Melbourne can wrap up the minor premiership with a win over the Broncos on Friday night at AMMI Park. It is the finals come early here as two combatants for the titles slog it out in what is sure to be a bruising encounter. Melbourne found their swagger last week after a month of patchy form with an easy win over Manly 38-18 at Brookvale Oval. The Broncos will be going in search of a 4th straight win as they continue to build back some momentum heading into the finals. The Broncos can go to equal 4th position, behind the Cowboys on for and against with one round to play.
Melbourne have as imposing record over the Broncos having won 9 of their past 10 match ups and 26 of 39 overall. Earlier this season the Storm put in a stunning performance in drubbing the Broncos 48-6 at Suncorp Stadium. After being on the back foot for the first 15 minutes the Storm withstood a number of goal line raids before putting on an attacking master class. Melbourne have clearly the best defensive team of the competition and in their recent wins over Brisbane they have been able to shut down the Broncos attack. Craig Bellamy will be targeting a win here which could give the Storm a rare opportunity to rest key duo Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk before the finals start the following week.
In the back of the Broncos minds will be that no team has won the competition from outside the Top 4 since the Top 8 system was introduced back in 1999. A loss here and they face the reality of having to win 4 straight and go on the road throughout most of the finals series. The Broncos have got back to their steely selves of late conceding just 28 points in total in their last 3 victories. There was a lot more aggression and line speed in their effort against Canterbury as they muscled up to one of the bigger packs in the competition. Recently we have seen the return to form of Anthony Milford who looks to have his running game back in order.
Verdict - I just can't go past Melbourne given their record against the Broncos and the fact they are playing for the minor premiership in front of their own fans. I think Brisbane will be far stronger then they were earlier this year when the sides met and this will be relatively dour and bruising affair. However I just think Melbourne even if they are a little off have points in them then Brisbane, their team work in attack seems a little more potent. Melbourne by 10.