Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs proved no match for the Broncos with the competition’s front-runners winning 16-8 in stormy winter conditions.
Fearless skipper James Graham was welcomed back to the engine room, overcoming a hamstring injury suffered in Round 13 against the Dragons. Shaun Lane retained his spot with Lloyd Perrett dropping off the extended bench named earlier in the week.
Trent Hodkinson was rested after Wednesday’s State Of Origin but Brett Morris, Josh Morris, David Klemmer and Josh Jackson all backed up. This saw Josh Reynolds come into the starting team to partner Moses Mbye in the halves.
Slated as State Of Origin IV, such was the number of representatives on show from both states, there were plenty of heavy legs late in the match but it was the Broncos who prevailed on the back of a glut of possession.
Broncos had all of the momentum early and they posted the first points of the match in the 15th minute via winger Daniel Vidot. Corey Parker failed to convert from the sideline for a 4-0 lead.
In the 26th minute the Morris brothers combined for a four-pointer with Brett breaking the line before flicking a speculative pass to the trailing Josh, who did well to get the ball down despite the efforts of Andrew McCullough. Mbye sprayed his conversion to leave things levelled up at 4-4.
A creative mid-set kick from Reynolds found Sam Perrett in the 32nd minute and Bulldogs looked certain to score but Reynolds, supporting his own kick, was hauled down metres from the line.
In the subsequent set of six the Broncos stacked their left side and a short ball from Anthony Milford opened up a space for Sam Thaiday to dash through to collect his team’s second try of the night, just as the rain started to bucket down. Jordan Kahu added the extras for 10-4 in the 35th minute.
On the last play of the first half Ben Hunt chipped to the corner for his winger but an outstretched Lachlan Maranta lost control of the ball over the line.
A possession count of 60/40 in favour of Brisbane was something the boys would have been keen to turn around in the second forty. Lightning and hail during the break brought about a slight delay to the player’s return to the field.
Lane showed great footwork on the right edge to evade Jack Reed and score in the 49th minute, capping a bright start to the second half from the Bulldogs. Mbye failed to convert for 10-8.
A Bulldog error just 10m out from their own line gave Brisbane a terrific opportunity to strike back right on the hour mark. After forcing a dropout, the Broncos capitalised with Adam Blair driving low to get under the tackle of Mbye and score under the posts. Kahu added the extras for 16-8.
A mistake from try-scorer Blair in the following set gifted Bulldogs the chance to cut back the deficit straight away but a strong tackle forced Tim Lafai over the sideline early in the set.
A mounting error count took its toll in the last 20 minutes. Credit to Broncos who chalked up their sixth straight win. They were excellent in defence and dominated the all-important battle for territory in trying conditions.
In the final minute, Lafai looked certain to score a late consolation but Thaiday managed to hold him up in goal. Michael Lichaa finished the match with 64 tackles!
Bulldogs are hosted by Parramatta Eels at ANZ Stadium next Friday night with kick-off at 7:35pm local time.
BRONCOS 16 (Vidot, Thaiday, Blair Tries; Kahu 2 Goals) def. BULLDOGS 8 (J.Morris, Lane Tries)
At: ANZ Stadium