Bulldogs v Broncos Preview

Bulldogs v Broncos
ANZ Stadium
Friday, 7.35pm (AEST)

Last week was exactly what the Bulldogs and Broncos needed – good strong wins and performances they knew they were capable of, but have been unable to produce consistently this season.

Though the Wests Tigers appeared tired in last Friday night’s clash, it was a much-improved Bulldogs side that came away with the win, going from missing 47 tackles in Round 5, to just 28 against the Tigers.
 
The Broncos welcomed back the likes of Israel Folau and Jharal Yow Yeh to the side and the change in the team was immediate – running in 32 points to nil in the first half against the Sharks on Sunday.

Despite falling away in the second half and letting in 16 points, coach Ivan Henjak would be pleased his team put forward some rebuttal to the talk they don’t have what it takes to make the finals this year.

Both will need to put in a full 80-minute performance on Friday night. Too often this year have they had lapses in concentration or dropped their tenacity in the second half – the Broncos missed 39 tackles in the second half alone last week, while the Bulldogs went from missing just six, to more than tripling that figure to 22.

Last year Ben Roberts ran riot against the Broncos, putting in arguably the best performance of his career and if he fires again on Friday, Brisbane could be in for a long night. The Bulldogs have scored seven of their 28 tries from kicks – Roberts, Michael Ennis and Brett Kimmorley all setting up four-pointers from the boot last week.

But that’s not Canterbury’s only threat. Half their tries have been from line-breaks, so they’ll chance their hand and run the ball if they think they have a hope. The Broncos will need to be on full alert, as one lapse in concentration and the ’Dogs will be looking to pounce.

Canterbury will need to be sure of themselves as well though. Brisbane have talented backs and have scored 12 of their 23-try total as a result of line-breaks. The Broncos were near flawless against the Sharks in the first half last week (91 per cent completion, two errors and 11 missed tackles) and they’ll be looking to come out with the same fervour against the ’Dogs. Canterbury still have some defensive flaws and this will be exposed if they don’t keep their line tight.

Watch out Bulldogs:
Israel Folau made an impressive comeback last weekend clocking 114 run metres, six tackle-breaks and a line-break, as well as crossing for two tries.

Big Izzy is always a threat out of the line and will be better for the run against the last-placed Sharks. He has six tries to his name from four games – one of which he only played in for 21 minutes – and he has broken the 100-metre run mark in each of his three full matches.

Watch out Broncos:
The Bulldogs’ forwards found their stride against the Tigers, giving Michael Ennis and Brett Kimmorley some breathing space to do their thing. The ’Dogs’ pack had possibly their best combined effort to date, and their playmakers reaped the rewards, with Ennis crossing for two tries and setting up another. If they can gain the same forward dominance against a team with the worst missed-tackle rate in the NRL (avg 46 per game), the game is theirs for the taking.

Where it will be won: Forwards are essential for teams to get on the front foot and whichever pack gets the upper hand in this game will win the match.

The Bulldogs finally found the rhythm they’ve been lacking in 2010 last week, allowing Kimmorley and Ennis to inject themselves into the game. Their lack of attacking opportunities so far (Roosters game aside) means the ’Dogs can be a little off the mark with their execution, but more matches like last week and that can only improve.

For the Broncos, however, their supposed under-experienced, under-aged pack hasn’t been as bad as many first thought they would be. Sam Thaiday has been outstanding in 2010 (he averages 125 metres a game) and other players Dunamis Lui, Alex Glenn and Lagi Setu have all been averaging near 100 metres or more – a solid contribution across the board. Whoever can gain the edge up front on Friday will give their team the freedom to attack and create opportunities.

The History:  Played 39; Brisbane 22, Canterbury-Bankstown 16, drawn 1. It could be daunting for the ’Dogs running out against the Broncos, who have the edge on them 5-3 in clashes at ANZ.

Conclusion: A lot is riding on this game for both clubs. They are two from six to start the season and will want to put two wins together and start some momentum.

They play similar styles, so will go at each other hard in the early stanzas – but the Bulldogs being able to keep a Benji Marshall-led Tigers to just four points bodes well for them.

While the Broncos piled on the points against the Sharks it’s a tougher opposition they face this week and they’ll be tested a deal more. Look for the Bulldogs to make it back-to-back wins for the first time in 2010.

Match Officials: Referees: Jared Maxwell & Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials: Paul Holland & David Abood; Video Ref: Bill Harrigan.

Televised: Live – Channel 9 (NSW & Qld) 7.30pm; Delayed – Fox Sports 2 11.30pm.