Brisbane Broncos v Canterbury Bulldogs @ Suncorp Stadium
The Broncos and Bulldogs lock horns in a finals preview at Suncorp Stadium on Thursday night. Both sides are coming off consecutive victories and will be looking to build momentum heading into the finals. A Broncos victory would keep their fading top 4 chances alive, whilst a Canterbury victory virtually ensures their spot on the Final 4.
Earlier this season The Bulldogs smashed the Broncos 40-16 in the midst the Origin period. The Canterbury pack was dominant that night as they stream rolled the Broncos down the middle of the field. The Broncos are slowly but surely finding a bit of form of late with a scratchy win against the Dragons followed by a comfortable 34-10 win over Parramatta at home. Most pleasing for Wayne Bennett would have been the Broncos have only conceded 9 points a game in their last 2 victories as they try and build that defensive wall that they held with such fortitude throughout their 2015 campaign. However the Broncos will be tested more here as Canterbury have the ability to win the collisions and create more pressure then the Dragons or Eels pack could hope to assert. Last week was notable in that Anthony Milford made a welcome return to form scoring a try and setting up two. Milford and Hunt seem like players that heavily rely on confidence and if they can get back to somewhere near their best their is life yet in the Broncos premiership aspirations.
The Bulldogs have made a habit of winning ugly of late with scratchy wins against lowly clubs like the Dragons, Newcastle and Manly. While their attack appears a mess at times in the opposition halves their is something about the Bulldogs in that they know how to win when far from their best. While Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds can be excellent off the cuff they need to organise their side on final plays especially. Des Hasler will no doubt be setting his forward pack the same challenge of overwhelming Brisbane as they did earlier in the season at ANZ Stadium. While the Brisbane pack contains plenty of Origin experience the Dogs have a clear size advantage and I expect them to play simple power game on Thursday night
Verdict - I think the Bulldogs might relish being on the big stage up at Suncorp. I am a little surprised the Broncos go in as pretty heavy favourites given the touch up Canterbury gave them barely 2 months ago. While Brisbane appear to be going far better now I think they are suspect up the middle. I think if Canterbury can assert their authority there they will have territorial advantage to put some points on. Little worried Brisbane arguably might be more desperate given they are at home and need to make ground up on the Dogs. However sticking with the away side in a game i expect to be tight and relatively low scoring. Bulldogs by 6.