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NRLW grand final: Baker out; Dragons 1-17

Defending champions Brisbane and pre-season favourites St George Illawarra meet in the 2019 NRLW grand final in a match-up many predicted at the start of the season. 

The Broncos will have the experience on their side with up to 10 players remaining from the squad that won the inaugural title 12 months ago, and the Dragons have three former Broncos players in their line-up who were also part of the big day last year.

The Warriors proved the Broncos weren't invincible last week when they upset the defending premiers 10-8 at the SCG. How the Broncos respond to their first-ever defeat will be a key factor in their quest to go back-to-back. 

St George Illawarra have the momentum with two impressive wins on the trot, but can they take the next big step and stop the Broncos from securing consecutive titles?

The Rundown

Team news

Broncos: Chelsea Baker is out of the Broncos team, with Tamika Upton (No.18) to start at fullback. After Taylor Mapusua and Rosemary Vaimili Tualepai were trimmed from the reserves 24 hours prior to kick-off, Baker and Heather Ballinger were omitted 60 minutes before game time.

Dragons: The Dragons will start 1-17 after Sarah Togatuki and Lexi Kiriwi were the last two players dropped from the squad. Rikeya Horne starts on the wing. Player of last year’s grand final, former Bronco Kimiora Nati, remains out through illness, while Stephanie Mooka was cut from the reserves 24 hours before kick-off. 

Key match-up

Ali Brigginshaw v Maddie Studdon. It was a similar story in round one and it was Brigginshaw who got the upper hand to lead her side to victory. This clash presents a different scenario, though, with Studdon finding some form leading into the grand final.

Studdon has noticeably gone up a notch since Keeley Davis moved into the halves and Brigginshaw has combined well with Raecene McGregor.

Studdon (two try assists) edges Brigginshaw, who has only managed one for the season. Brigginshaw has created three line-break assists and challenged the line a further 10 times than the NSW halfback, though.

For the Broncos to win

They'll need to get back to what works for them after conceding two tries last week in the first half and tallying 44 missed tackles in a very uncharacteristic performance. The positive was they had a chance to level late through a Chelsea Baker conversion, indicating that even at their worst they're still in the game.

The Broncos were steely enough in defence against the Dragons in round one but will need to be even better on grand final day. If their forwards can contain the likes of Maitua Feterika and Kezie Apps, who have been dominant in attack, then that should allow their outside backs enough time to handle the Dragons out wide.

For the Dragons to win

They'll have to overcome the challenge of playing on such a big stage. The Broncos have experienced players in their side from last year who can relate. In the Dragons' favour is that several have played in big matches – Origins, Test matches, World Cup games – so grand final day shouldn't be too much an ask.

They need to maintain another strong completion rate. Their loss to the Broncos in round one came when they dropped below 70 per cent with 11 errors in total. If they hold the ball they've got more than enough strike, as seen in the past fortnight, to turn their chances into points.

A dry track will also help their cause with the side dominant in the second halves of games.

NRLW try of the year nominees

Stat Attack

The Broncos have had 413 runs in three games for a total of 3393 metres. St George Illawarra have had 16 fewer runs but have run for 3755 metres – a 362m difference. 

And another thing ...

The Broncos have run more than double (62) the amount of times out of dummy-half than the Dragons (30) in the past three games. Former Broncos star and Dally M medallist Brittany Breayley has been limited in recent weeks with just three runs in her past two games. 

 

Tickets for the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final 2019 are now on sale to the general public.

Tickets are available through Ticketek and nrl.com/tickets.