Broncos v Bulldogs: Schick Preview

Schick Hydro Preview Brisbane Broncos v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Suncorp Stadium
Thursday, 7.50pm 

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs need a lot of things to go their way to make the finals in 2017 and a win over the Brisbane Broncos would be the perfect start to an unlikely late-season run. 

The Bulldogs have been disappointing this year, sitting 13th with just seven wins for the season. 

A lot of this disappointment can be put down to their inability to score points, with the club sitting last in points scored stat in 2017. 

However, a week off has refreshed Des Hasler's men and they will be approaching each of the seven games left in the regular season as must-win match-ups.  

It will not get much tougher for Canterbury than facing Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium, with the Broncos sitting in the top four as one of the competition favourites. 

After defeating a spirited Newcastle Knights outfit in Round 19, the Broncos see this week's match as an opportunity to cement their position among the competition's elite. 

Brisbane have received a boost, welcoming back Maroons duo Matt Gillett and Josh McGuire, with Jai Arrow and Jaydn Su'A dropping out of the side and Sam Thaiday moving to the bench.

For the Bulldogs, Origin players Brett Morris, Josh Jackson and David Klemmer return, with Kerrod Holland, Asipeli Fine and Andy Saunders dropping out, while Michael Lichaa returns to the starting side with Matt Frawley benched.

‌Why the Broncos can win: Brisbane are superior in almost all key statistics heading into this match-up. Statistics are not everything, but they give a good indication of why a team is where they are on the ladder. The Broncos have scored 21 more tries than the Bulldogs this season, averaging 22 points a game compared to Canterbury's 14. Brisbane have also accumulated 21 more line breaks so far this year and have made ten less errors, with Wayne Bennett's men having made the second least amount of errors in the competition. If the Broncos can hold on to the ball and stick to their game plan then they should have too much firepower for the Bulldogs. But as pundits saw when the two sides met earlier in the year, Canterbury have a way of frustrating their opposition into low-scoring contests that work in their favour. 

Why the Bulldogs can win: Stand-in captain Aiden Tolman has stood up in the Bulldogs' last two matches as he looks to fill the workload of injured prop James Graham who is out of the side for at least another week with a neck complaint. Tolman averages 48 tackles and 156 running metres over his last two games and he must continue with this effort if he is to help Canterbury win the forward battle up the middle. This is how the Bulldogs beat the Broncos in their Round 5 win, with Canterbury running for almost 400 more metres in their three-point victory. The Bulldogs won't outscore Brisbane if the game opens up. Instead they need the match to be a gritty, slow forward battle that allows them to grind out a tough victory. 

The history: Played 51, Broncos 28, Bulldogs 22, Drawn 1. Canterbury have had a good run of late against Brisbane, winning three of the last four contests. However, the Broncos have won four of the last five clashes between the two sides at Suncorp Stadium. In their one meeting earlier this year, the Bulldogs came from behind to win 10-7 in wet conditions at ANZ Stadium in Round 5. Bulldog Brett Morris has four tries in his last three matches against Brisbane, while Bronco Sam Thaiday has two four-pointers in his last two games against Canterbury. 

Match officials: Referee: Grant Atkins; Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton; Touch Judges: Michael Wise & Belinda Sleeman; Review Official: Luke Patten; Senior RO: Bernard Sutton.   

Televised: Channel 9 – Live coverage from 7.30pm; Fox League – Live coverage from 7.30pm. 

How we see it: If the Bulldogs want to play finals football in 2017 then they have to win this game. They will be desperate and will hang in there until half-time, but the Broncos should have too much talent across the park. Brisbane won't make the same mistakes as they did in Round 5 and should put Canterbury to the sword as the game wears on. Broncos by 14. 

This article first appeared on NRL.com