A desperate and disciplined Canterbury Bulldogs side has overcome a saturated ANZ Stadium pitch and a series of disallowed tries – not to mention a powerful Brisbane Broncos line-up – to prevail 10-7 on Thursday night.
Badly needing a vastly improved performance following last week's thrashing by Manly, Des Hasler's men produced a greatly improved defensive showing.
Debutant halfback Matt Frawley's deft kicking game created four goal-line drop outs and was unlucky not to create two or three tries with poor execution from his teammates proving costly on a few occasions.
It ended up not costing them the match though as the Dogs overcame a 7-0 half-time deficit to find two try-scoring plays in the second half while refusing to concede further points.
Skipper James Graham was simply inspirational with 180 metres and 56 tackles – including one late try-saver – while Josh Reynolds had his best game of the year, hooker Michael Lichaa one of his best in Canterbury colours and rookie fullback Brad Abbey easily his best NRL game in his three so far.
Josh Jackson (130 metres, 40 tackles and a try assist) and David Klemmer (a massive 295 metres) also produced easily their best efforts of 2017.
Brisbane weren't bad by any stretch but some poor errors and leaky edge defence from Anthony Milford and Tautau Moga proved costly.
The Broncos ground their way to a 7-0 half time lead but profited from some poor plays from Canterbury, who were twice caught offside on try-scoring opportunities.
The first try came in bizarre circumstances as Milford spotted Bulldogs fullback Abbey defending in the line and kicked downfield on play two in the eighth minute with Sam Thaiday outpacing Milford to dive on the ball and slide along the sodden ANZ Stadium turf into the in-goal.
A possible Josh Reynolds try from a Frawley kick was spilled by the five-eighth but penalised for offside anyway while a clear-cut try to Reynolds – again off a Frawley kick – was disallowed when Brenko Lee was penalised for being offside.
The Dogs created some sustained pressure late in the half via Frawley's accurate boot helping them to three consecutive goal-line drop outs but they weren't able to capitalise. Instead a Jordan Kahu field goal right on the half-time siren was the only further addition to the first half score.
The first 15 minutes of the second half saw some resolute defence from both teams with both being forced into goal-line drop outs and Canterbury's short drop outs produced a pair of interesting results.
One kick failed to go 10 but jagged off its point just past the 10-metre line and into touch to earn the Bulldogs possession back while their second barely travelled five but rather than receiving the penalty, Brisbane winger Jordan Kahu – clearly forgetting the relevant rule – scooped the ball up while it was still live to instead give up a penalty and let the Dogs off the hook.
It proved a massive play with Canterbury surging downfield, getting in attacking range via another penalty and scoring through the sheer determination of Reynolds who got his team back within a point.
The Bulldogs looked re-energised and when Josh Jackson scorched through Anthony Milford and Tautau Moga on Brisbane's left edge four minutes to send Abbey over the blue-and-whites had a well-earned 10-7 lead with 20 to play.
Reynolds came up with his third disallowed try of the game – all from Frawley kicks – when video inspection found he had knocked on in the lead up to what was an otherwise excellent grounding.
The next set saw skipper James Graham produce an inspirational try-saving cover tackle on flying Broncos winger Corey Oates to earn him the adulation of his teammates.
It was the closest Brisbane got to a possible match-winner until some razzle dazzle off the final play of the game but Darius Boyd's desperation kick out wide was batted dead by winger Marcelo Montoya to cap a fine win.
Canterbury Bulldogs 10 (Reynolds, Abbey tries; Abbey goal) defeated Brisbane Broncos 7 (Thaiday try; Kahu goal; Kahu fiald goal) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Brisbane 7-0. Crowd: 7,421.