Broncos bully error-prone Bulldogs
The Bronco brick wall that was the bedrock of their charge to the 2015 Grand Final made a triumphant return to Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night as they bullied the Bulldogs in a 20-10 victory that keeps their top four hopes alive.
More than the flash of Anthony Milford the week prior, the tenaciousness of the Brisbane defence and Canterbury's inability to find a way to crack it is the best indicator yet that the Broncos' late season slump is now a thing of the past.
Where the Bulldogs were able to run roughshod in Round 16, Brisbane's swarming defence forced the visitors into error time and again and they gave the Broncos enough opportunities to eventually make it cost them on the scoreboard.
The match threatened to boil over three minutes from full-time when Bulldogs prop Sam Kasiano appeared to lash out with his boot and collected Corey Parker in the face, the Broncos forwards rallying around their skipper with a brutal defensive set to follow.
The only bad news for the Broncos was a sickening collision involving winger Corey Oates who crashed into the point of William Hopoate's shoulder while chasing a Ben Hunt bomb and left the field 15 minutes from full-time with concussion.
A feeling-out period typical of a heavyweight showdown lasted 13 minutes at the start of the game before some enterprising ball movement by the Broncos swung to the right before heading back to the left where some quick hands from Sam Thaiday gave Tom Opacic all the space he needed to score the second try of his NRL career.
Attempts at offloads in wrong positions from Brett Morris and Sam Kasiano handed possession over to the Broncos early in tackle counts but Josh Reynolds set the Bulldogs on the path to their first points with a pass 15 metres out from the Brisbane line.
His offload found Michael Lichaa who hit Moses Mbye on his left who grubbered through into the Broncos in-goal, Josh Morris flying past the ball allowing brother Brett to swoop and score his 10th from just eight games in the 28th minute.
A gamble on the stroke of half-time paid big dividends for the Broncos who turned down a gift penalty goal two minutes from the break to score six and take a 10-4 lead into half-time.
With the Bulldogs defence holding on for dear life Ben Hunt tried to guide a short grubber kick into the in-goal only to have the ball bounce back off opposite Mbye into his arms, the Brisbane No.7 pushing his way over from short range.
After a correct call was made to give the Bulldogs a scrum feed 10 metres out from Brisbane's line the Broncos repelled two sets without ever looking like being breached and were then gifted possession courtesy of a William Hopoate error early in the tackle count.
A double cut-out pass from Ben Hunt at the end of the next set looked to have put Jordan Kahu over in the corner before Josh Morris produced a stunning tackle to stop him from scoring 15 minutes into the second half.
Another Bulldogs error on their 20-metre line invited Brisbane to have another crack and this time they came up trumps, Sam Thaiday twisting his way over off a short pass from Andrew McCullough for a 16-4 lead 22 minutes from full-time.
The Bulldogs made their eighth error when Kerrod Holland handed it over 10 metres out from the Broncos' line and Anthony Milford picked up the dregs and set his team in motion, running 50 metres before passing to James Roberts who kicked to the corner or Jordan Kahu who was illegally pushed off the ball by Brett Morris.
A penalty from the first tackle of the next set put Kahu in position to add a further two points and a handy 14-point buffer inside the final quarter.
Kept relatively quiet in his first stint Sam Kasiano breathed life into the contest with a straightforward charge close to the line that split what had been a resolute Brisbane defence, but there was no denying the Bronco forwards out-pointed their much bigger opponents.
Brisbane Broncos 20 (Tom Opacic, Ben Hunt, Sam Thaiday tries; Jordan Kahu 4 goals) def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 10 (Brett Morris, Sam Kasiano tries; Moses Mbye 1 goal) at Suncorp Stadium. Crowd: 27,746. Half-time: Broncos 10-4. Holden Cup: Bulldogs 30-28.