Broncos v Bulldogs: Five key points
Brisbane's resolute defence got the job done against a Bulldogs side that failed to click in attack in a fiery contest at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night.
Semi-final football comes early
September football came a month early on Thursday night as both the Bulldogs and the Broncos fought out an intense contest. It was clear in the warm-ups that both sides had come to play and the Suncorp Stadium crowd was treated to a hard-hitting battle between two of the competition's best.
With Brisbane out to keep their top-four hopes alive and Canterbury-Bankstown playing for the chance to all but secure a top-four spot, it was a crucial clash for both teams' premiership chances.
A brutally tough first 20 minutes of football set the tone for the match, with both forward packs trying to send a message early on and assert their dominance. It may not have always been pretty, but if the finals are anything like this we are in for a treat.
Broncos still a premiership threat
Make no mistake, Brisbane are still a chance at winning the 2016 NRL premiership. Their form slump over the Origin period is long gone and they now look a team that can seriously shake things up come September. Thursday night's win makes it three in a row for the Broncos, and with matches against the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters coming up they are still a big chance of finishing in the top four.
The Bulldogs on the other hand have some soul searching to do. Des Hasler's men must respond to Thursday's disappointment quickly, with a vitally important match-up with the Cowboys coming up next week. If they lose that then they may just find themselves out of the top four and struggling for momentum at the wrong time of the season.
Brisbane forwards stand up
What a turnaround two months can make. When these two teams met earlier in the year it was the Bulldogs' pack that absolutely steamrolled the Broncos, setting up a 26-point win in the process.
This time Brisbane stood up. Outmatched for size, the Broncos' forward pack was rock solid in defence as they defended attacking raid after attacking raid – particularly in the first 20 minutes of the second half. In that period the experienced heads of Corey Parker and Adam Blair led from the front, putting themselves in the firing line as Canterbury-Bankstown's big men rolled up the middle.
The meeting between these two in Round 16 ended with the Bulldogs running for 1893 metres – a huge number when compared to Brisbane's 1358 metres that night. It couldn't have been more different on Thursday night, with the Broncos running for 1566 metres compared to the Bulldogs' 1434.
Morris twins worth watching
Brett and Josh Morris are a joy to watch. It doesn't matter if you can't tell them apart because they both produce such moments of brilliance. Whether it be try-saving tackles or scoring tries, they both never give an inch until the final whistle. The two treat each match like it's their last and it shows.
The Bulldogs are lucky to have those two on their left edge, with even the Suncorp Stadium crowd applauding their efforts on every occasion. The question needs to be asked – has there been a more prolific set of twins in the history of the NRL?
Jordan Kahu returns as goal-kicker
Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett insisted in the lead up to Thursday's clash that captain Corey Parker would be goal-kicking, but Broncos fans soon found out that was not the case. Parker has been demoted from his goal-kicking duties after a horrid performance against the Parramatta Eels in Round 23. That game saw the 34-year-old kick two goals from seven attempts and it left many wondering if it would be his last night with the boot.
Parker's season kicking percentage is one of the worst in the competition, with the Brisbane veteran only managing to convert successfully 66 per cent of the time. This is a damning statistic when compared to sharpshooters Trent Hodkinson and Johnathan Thurston, with both kicking at 86 per cent.
The Broncos can't afford to miss easy shots at goal heading into the finals and that's why Kahu was given the job in his first game back from injury.