In what is shaping up to be yet another great battle, Round 21 of the Telstra NRL Premiership sees the Canterbury Bulldogs play host to the seventh-placed Brisbane Broncos at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
Coming off the back of a grinding, confidence-building victory against the Wests Tigers in Round 20, the Canterbury Bulldogs will be looking to carry their momentum into this clash with the Brisbane Broncos and cause another upset against a finals-bound team. Given the attacking ability that the Broncos possess, the boys from Canterbury must remain on high alert and compete for the entire 80 minutes if they are to secure victory.
Back to back wins against the Penrith Panthers and the Cronulla Sharks, in Rounds 19 and 20 respectively, have elevated the Brisbane Broncos to 26 competition points and solidified their spot in the top eight. With a place in the top four up for grabs, Wayne Bennett’s men will be eager to stamp their premiership credentials by replicating the superb defensive effort they displayed against a valiant Sharks outfit last week.
A suspension to prop David Klemmer sees Danny Fualalo elevated into the starting side, with mid-season recruit Chris Smith set to make his NRL debut off the interchange bench.
Following their finals-like defeat of the Cronulla Sharks last week, coach Wayne Bennett has named an unchanged 17 for this Round 21 blockbuster.
Whilst the Bulldogs’ season has been plagued with salary cap distractions and resultant player movements, they have a real opportunity to put a halt to the Broncos’ charge towards the top four. When considering that the Bulldogs lead the NRL in runs (3,333), run metres (29,492) and post-contact metres (9,958), it is clear that their position on the ladder (13th) is not because of a lack of effort. The talent within the Bulldogs’ roster has the potential to seriously challenge the Broncos. For Dean Pay’s men to secure victory, their defensive effort is paramount. To accommodate for the loss of workhorse David Klemmer, it is imperative that middle-men Aiden Tolman, David Fualalo and captain Josh Jackson make it their intent to complete their tackles and restrict the Broncos’ opportunity for offloads. From an attacking perspective, if the Bulldogs’ spine (Hopoate, Lewis, Marshall-King and Lichaa) are any chance of exposing the Broncos, their forward pack must continually take the tough carries and target the Broncos’ middle.
Off the back of two dominant performances, the Broncos will no doubt be determined to make it three on the trot as they surge towards the finals. Given the resilience that the Bulldogs have shown throughout 2018, it is vital that the Broncos’ forward pack exploits their size and speed advantage when challenging the Bulldogs’ defensive line. If Josh McGuire and Tevita Pangai Junior can make effective use of their footwork and create opportunities for offloads, halves Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima will be given a license to roam and create space for their prolific try scoring backline.
Of the 53 occasions on which the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Brisbane Broncos have met, the Broncos have managed to muster 30 wins.
Canterbury Bulldogs: 1 Will Hopoate, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Kerrod Holland, 5 Reimis Smith, 6 Lachlan Lewis, 7 Jeremy Marshall-King, 8 Aiden Tolman, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 Danny Fualalo, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Rhyse Martin, 13 Adam Elliott. Interchange: 14 Fa’amanu Brown, 15 Greg Eastwood, 16 Ofahiki Ogden, 17 Chris Smith. Reserves: 19 Renouf Toomaga, 20 Matt Frawley, 21 Francis Tualau, 23 John Olive.
Brisbane Broncos: 1 Jamayne Isaako, 2 Corey Oates, 3 James Roberts, 4 Darius Boyd (c), 5 Jordan Kahu, 6 Anthony Milford, 7 Kodi Nikorima, 8 Matthew Lodge, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Sam Thaiday, 11 Alex Glenn, 12 Tevita Pangai Junior, 13 Josh McGuire. Interchange: 14 Kotoni Staggs, 15 Joe Ofahengaue, 16 Korbin Sims, 17 David Fifita. Reserves: 18 Gehamat Shibasaki, 19 Patrick Mago, 20 Sam Tagataese, 21 Troy Dargan.
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Thursday, August 2 2018
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Kick-off: 7:50pm (AEST)
WHO WILL WIN?
Despite the Bulldogs seemingly being rejuvenated by the injection of halves Lachlan Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King, expect the Broncos’ attacking flare and defensive pressure to be too strong for the boys from Canterbury.
Broncos by 12