The Brisbane Broncos will look to continue their late-season push for a top 4 finish when they take on the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Thursday Night.
Wayne Bennett’s men showed rare defensive steel in their 12-10 win over the in-form Sharks in Round 20, in contrast to their scintillating attack in their 50-18 win over Penrith the previous week.
Having won 5 of their last 6 games the Broncos look sure things for the finals, it’s just a matter of whether they can maintain their impressive form and jag a top-four finish.
As for the Bulldogs, they are in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon and they showed plenty of spirit in a 16-4 upset win over the Wests Tigers last week.
2018 Broncos def Bulldogs 22-20 at Suncorp Stadium
2017 Broncos def Bulldogs 42-12 at Suncorp Stadium
2017 Bulldogs def Broncos 10-7 at ANZ Stadium
2016 Broncos def Bulldogs 20-10 at Suncorp Stadium
2016 Bulldogs def Broncos 40-14 at ANZ Stadium
The Brisbane Broncos hold the edge over the Canterbury Bulldogs historically, having won 30 of 53 clashes since 1988.
Brisbane have won 7 of the past 10 meetings dating back to 2013.
The young Bulldogs outfit would love payback for their heartbreaking 22-20 loss to the Broncos in Round 9 when they conceded a penalty goal in the last minute to lose.
Moses Mbye who has since moved to the Wests Tigers was controversially sin binned for a professional foul on Darius Boyd in that game, allowing Jamayne Isaako to kick the winning penalty goal.
|Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||Brisbane Broncos|
|1||Will Hopoate||Jamayne Isaako|
|2||Brett Morris||Corey Oates|
|3||Josh Morris||James Roberts|
|4||Kerrod Holland||Darius Boyd|
|5||Reimis Smith||Jordan Kahu|
|6||Lachlan Lewis||Anthony Milford|
|7||Jeremy-Marshall King||Kodi Nikorima|
|8||Aiden Tolman||Matthew Lodge|
|9||Michael Lichaa||Andrew McCullough|
|10||Danny Fualalo||Sam Thaiday|
|11||Josh Jackson [C]||Alex Glenn|
|12||Rhyse Martin||Tevita Pangai Junior|
|13||Adam Elliott||Josh McGuire|
|14||Fa’amanu Brown||Kotoni Staggs|
|15||Greg Eastwood||Joe Ofahengaue|
|16||Ofahiki Ogden||Korbin Sims|
|17||Chris Smith||David Fifita|
|19/18||Renouf Toomaga||Gehamat Shibasaki|
|20/19||Matt Frawley||Patrick Mago|
|21/20||Francis Tualau||Sam Tagataese|
|23/21||John Olive||Troy Dargan|
The major change for the Bulldogs is the loss of NSW Origin prop David Klemmer through suspension. Danny Fualalo starts in the number 10 blue and white jersey while mid-season recruit Chris Smith will make his club debut off the bench.
The in form Broncos have named an unchanged lineup
The facts that matter
In terms of wins and losses, Canterbury look headed for their worst season since 2008, a year in which they won only 5 games and collected the dreaded wooden spoon. That team was reeling from the mid-season departure of Sonny Bill Williams and suffered numerous heavy defeats. However, that hasn’t been the case for the 2018 squad under Dean Pay. The Bulldogs have lost 14 games so far this season but 9 of those have been by under 10 points.
The Bulldogs forwards have been laying a strong platform in 2018. Canterbury leads the NRL in run metres with 29,492 and also in post contact metres with 9,958. However, despite these impressive statistics they have only the 14th best-attacking record with 303 points scored and sit in 13th position on the ladder.
The inability of their inexperienced halves and other key attacking personnel to turn field position into points has proved very costly.
At least there have been some signs of improvement since young five eighth Lachlan Lewis settled into the starting team while second rower Rhyse Martin is an exciting young talent as well.
It’s a little strange to say about a club with such a high profile as the Brisbane Broncos but they seemed to have flown under the radar a bit in 2018.
Inconsistent results early in the season and continuing speculation over the coaching future of Wayne Bennett has meant they haven’t really been talked about as serious premiership contenders.
Indeed, they haven’t been above 7th position all season but it’s clear that the Broncos are building some impressive momentum having won 9 of their past 12 matches.
Their young forwards have been outstanding in recent weeks, especially Tevita Pangai Junior who has been touted as a possible Kangaroos representative for the end of the season tests, or even a Tongan player, depending on which nation he chooses to represent.
Youngsters Joe Ofahengaue, David Fifita and Kotoni Staggs have all been playing with no fear and they’ve helped to provide a great platform for the Broncos talented halves and outside backs to play off.
Five-eighth Anthony Milford is known mostly for his instinctively brilliant running game but he also leads the NRL for kick metres with 6506 which may surprise his critics.
Another youngster who has made the step up to NRL level very quickly is Jamayne Isaako. Now playing fullback, Isaako is the leading point scorer for the Broncos in 2018 with 161 points. So far Wayne Bennett’s decision to move to Captain Darius Boyd to the centres looks to be a smart one.
The Broncos still need to be wary of a young Bulldogs side who will play with plenty of pride at Homebush. Brisbane’s Achilles heel in 2018 has been their performances against the lower clubs, having lost to Gold Coast, Newcastle and Manly earlier in the year.
While the Bulldogs have the motivation to play well and steer clear of the dreaded wooden spoon, the Brisbane Broncos will be looking to keep their impressive late-season momentum going.
If the Bulldogs forwards aim up and they complete their sets well, then they could challenge the Broncos.
However, the Broncos appear to simply have too much talent in the backs, with Anthony Milford, James Roberts, Jamayne Isaako and Corey Oates all firing.
This might be a closer contest than many people are predicting but the Broncos should keep their roll going on Thursday Night.
Brisbane by 10 points.
Could the Bulldogs pull off a mammoth upset and beat the Broncos, or will Brisbane prove too strong on the road? Let us know in the comments below.