Broncos v Bulldogs: Five Key Points
Brisbane's centre pairing guide an attacking blitz as the Broncos end the Bulldogs' finals hopes with a 42-12 thrashing at Suncorp Stadium.
Broncos building to peak
It wasn't the most complete performance but the Broncos are building nicely for a finals charge in September. The combination of Ben Hunt and Anthony Milford was rusty to begin with but later improved with more time spent on the paddock.
The return of Darius Boyd from a broken thumb is the final cog in Wayne Bennett's oiled machine that are still yet to hit their top flight.
Bulldogs season all but over
They were given a slight chance by only the true believers, but the season is done for the Bulldogs. It was a painful finish for the visitors who at one point didn't have the ball for 14 minutes in the second half to concede three tries in seven minutes.
The result was looking ugly with 15 minutes to go until Adam Blair's spell in the sin-bin swung the momentum late in Canterbury's favour. It was the equal-second biggest loss against the Broncos and first time the Bulldogs have conceded over 40 points since 2014 – ironically again to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
It will be the first time Des Hasler's side has missed the finals since he joined the club in 2012.
Offload masterclass early
Finals football is still over a month away but the opening 40 minutes gave an early indication of the quality that can be played by creating some second phase play.
Both the Bulldogs and Broncos rank inside the top four for offloads in 2017 and put on a combined 22 in the first half – a stark contrast to their joint total of 17 after 80 minutes in their corresponding clash back in Round 7 at ANZ Stadium.
Nikorima shines in fullback role
It is expected to be short-lived but utility Kodi Nikorima gave Wayne Bennett plenty of food for thought with a strong performance in his first stint at fullback in the top grade.
Fresh after signing a new three-year deal with the club earlier in the week, the 22-year-old was safe under the high ball and got past Raymond Faitala-Mariner fpr the side's fourth try of the night.
With Australian international and Broncos skipper Darius Boyd expected to return next week from a broken thumb, Nikorima will prove one of the best impact players off the bench moving into the finals.
It's unlikely he will get much game time in the hooking role though with Andrew McCullough churning out his best performance of 2017, breaking through the Bulldogs defence early and setting up two tries.
Broncos centres added strike
The addition of Tautau Moga this season has added another element to the attacking prowess on the edges for the Broncos.
Brisbane were guilty of finding James Roberts at the wrong time last year with the opposition doing a job on the 24-year-old as he was considered the Broncos' only attacking weapon out wide at Red Hill.
But Moga allows the Broncos to attack both sides of the field more fluently with the powerful centre beginning to show glimpses of an Israel Folau or Joey Leilua type of destruction against the opposition in recent weeks.