The Broncos were desperate for a home win against the Bulldogs at Suncorp on Thursday, having lost three out of their last four fixtures, despite have been the first team of 2018 to beat the Warriors for the fourth. That just made Canterbury-Bankstown all the more galvanised, as well, to try and replicate their stunning scoreline the last time they played a Queensland team, especially after such a disappointing effort against the Panthers at Pepper Stadium last Saturday evening.
The Dogs started strong, thanks to some good work from Will Hopoate to get a goal line dropout, although they missed their first chance at points, with Moses Mbye’s kick hitting the uprights and ricocheting away to deny them the first penalty goal of the game. Still, a quick play-the-ball from Josh Jackson and a deft run from Jeremy Marshall-King set up the platform for Rhyse Martin to score the first try of his NRL debut a couple of sets later, off the back of Mbye’s first try assist of the 2018 season.
It was a move that more than made up for the Canterbury fullback’s mistake with the boot shortly earlier, as he scooped up the Steeden and swerved in and around the Brisbane left edge, before offloading the footy to Martin just as he was hitting the turf. Seconds later, he added the extras, only for the Dogs to let off the pressure when Raymond Faitala-Mariner coughed up the Steeden on only the second tackle.
From there, the ball moved up and down the field a few times before Brisbane set in for a sustained period of possession and field position, forcing the Bulldogs to showcase some of their best defence of the last couple of weeks. Once again, however, they got the ball back only to make an error within their own ten, with a knock-on during the first tackle gifting the footy back to Brisbane one more time.
Despite benefiting from a series of penalties during their previous attacking sequence, the Broncos, somewhat uncharacteristically, had chosen to surge at the line with each fresh set of six, rather than taking the two. Presumably, that was because the Dogs had been the first to put down points, meaning that the Broncos were going for an all-or-nothing approach early in the game. That continued here, as you sensed that Brisbane had to score on this set in order to avoid losing their momentum and gifting the visitors the advantage for the next part of the match.
Sure enough, then, the Broncos consolidated here for one of their most efficient sets all night, culminating with a superb harbour bridge pass from Darius Boyd to Corey Oates after the Brisbane fullback recognized that Marcelo Montoya was too far on the inside to ever get back to the wing in time. It was a classic Brisbane move, and a classic Suncorp move, and seemed to reset the game in its wake, affirming the Broncos as the custodians of the game and venue as Jamayne Isaako added the two.
Things looked pretty bad for the Bulldogs as the clock wound down, as the moments of organisation and inspiration that had flickered throughout their game over the first forty minutes started to slip away from them. Whether it was Kieran Foran coughing up a restart kick from Isaako, or Jeremy Marshall-King losing the Steeden on the fourth tackle, Canterbury-Bankstown were leaking errors so drastically that their only chance of scoring was for Brisbane to come up with an ever bigger howler.
That’s just what happened a couple of minutes out from the end, when Boyd slipped over just before collecting a fifth-tackle kick from Foran. To his credit, he almost cleaned it up, but his possession wasn’t quite secure enough, leaving it available for Montoya to storm in, scoop it up, and make a run at the line. Even here, the Canterbury instinct was a bit off, since Montoya could have scored up the right edge if he’d taken advantage of the space, but instead chose to take the footy back inside.
Luckily, Matt Frawley was storming up on the inside to take the burden of his winger, collecting the Steeden right on the line for the second Canterbury try of the night. Despite all expectations, then, the Dogs headed into the sheds eight points in front, and yet Brisbane came back pretty quickly in the second half, with Anthony Milford sucking in the defence to allow Alex Glenn to slide past Foran for four more points.
If that was a boon for Brisbane, then they benefited even more from the worst refereeing call of the 2018 season – Isaako somehow managing to get away with a blatant knock-on – and a decision that became even sourer for the Dogs once they gave away a penalty at the other end of the field, giving the Broncos the opportunity to go for goal and level the score. If David Klemmer seemed ropeable the week before, then it took all his energy to regain his composure in the wake of this extraordinary call, which gave the Bulldogs a whole new energy over the next sets.
It culminated with a massive hit from Klemmer on Payne Haas – a gesture of intimidation if there ever was one – followed by a bit of extra work from Adam Elliott. Still, the Dogs had to wait for another slip from the Broncos to score their next try, even if it came off the back of an amazing run and some terrific footwork from Hopoate, who danced around Tom Opacic and Anthony Milford to get two-thirds up the field before the Brisbane defence had a chance to reconfigure itself.
From there, Hoppa booted the ball, at high speed, back on the inside, for what initially looked like a bit of a misfire as Jack Bird got in perfect position to collect it. Like Boyd before him, though, the ex-Shark fell to the ground at the crucial moment, leaving space for Holland to speed through and clutch the footy to his chest. Even then, it wasn’t a sure thing, with the young backliner looking as if he must slip in turn, drop the ball or commit a double movement as he frantically felt to ground just before the line, only to somehow keep his composure and pull off four more points.
No surprise that this was a bit of a shocking moment for the Broncos, with Boyd’s awkwardness under the next high ball speaking to how drastically they’d been taken off guard. They needed a comeback, and Joe Ofahengaue provided it five minutes out from the end, thanks to James Roberts’ most powerful moment of the night, which, somewhat uncharacteristically, occurred at low-speed, in the form of a slow drift towards the centre of the field followed by a well-timed pass to his big forward.
With Isaako adding the extras the score was levelled at 20-20 in what looked set to be Brisbane’s second golden point outing of the 2018 season if the Dogs couldn’t score. Before it could get to that, however, a professional foul from Moses Mbye led to a penalty shot for Isaako right in front of the posts, giving Brisbane the victory as the final siren sounded, although there’s no doubt that the Broncos will be looking for a more decisive win over against Manly at the Suncorp double header next week.