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The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs went down fighting in their round one clash, eventually losing 18-12 to a sharp Broncos unit at ANZ Stadium tonight in front of an 18,040-strong crowd.

The Bulldogs went into their season opener without Greg Eastwood (foot), Tim Lafai (hand), Sam Kasiano (ankle) and Krisnan Inu (jaw), which gave debuts to Corey Thompson (NRL debut), Chase Stanley (Bulldogs debut) and Pat O’Hanlon (Bulldogs debut).

A predictably hostile reception greeted former Belmore man Ben Barba and after a cautious start from both sides, it was the Broncos who opened the scoring in the 7th minute after Sam Perrett misjudged Ben Hunt’s bomb, giving the Broncos possession from the dropout. In the ensuing set, a clever grubber from Barba was scooped up by centre Dale Copley. Corey Parker converted from the sideline to make it 6-0.

Eight minutes later and the Broncos had their second try of the night courtesy of Daniel Vidot who barged over in the corner after receiving a Hunt cut out pass. Parker again slotted from the sideline for a 12-0 lead.

A penalty to the visitors in the 29th minute saw Hunt extend the lead further to 14-0.

The Bulldogs rallied late in the first half with a scuffle between co-captain Michael Ennis and Martin Kennedy sparking the home side into action. Soon after, Josh Morris plucked a deftly placed Trent Hodkinson kick out of the air. Hodkinson converted to make it 14-6.

That’s how the score stayed with James Graham (12 carries and 18 tackles) a standout for the Bulldogs in the first 40 minutes.

Mitch Brown suffered a concussion early in the second half which saw Chase Stanley switch to the wing with versatile back rower Josh Jackson covering centre.

On the back of a Bulldogs penalty, Tony Williams crashed over the line courtesy of a short ball from Josh Reynolds. Hodkinson slotted the extras and in the 54th minute the score was reduced to 14-12.

A lift in intensity was notable from the Bulldogs with a strong run from Frank Pritchard forcing a dazed Todd Lowrie to the sidelines.

A mistake from the Broncos in their own 20 metres gave the Bulldogs a great opportunity in the 60th minute to snatch the lead. Dale Finucane looked certain to score only to have the ball squeezed out by the desperate Broncos defence.

The Bulldogs forced several dropouts but a resilient Broncos unit muscled up and after absorbing plenty of pressure, sealed the victory with a Lachlan Maranta try. Quick hands through the backline in the 75th minute saw the winger dive over in the corner with referee Shayne Hayne going to the video referee querying a possible obstruction. It was deemed a try and the Broncos stretched their lead to out to six with Corey Parker missing the conversion.

BRONCOS 18 (Copley, Vidot, Maranta Tries; Parker 2, Hunt 1 Goals) def. BULLDOGS 12 (Morris, Williams Tries; Hodkinson 2 Goals)

At: ANZ Stadium

Crowd: 18,040