The Broncos breathed further life into their semi-final hopes with a double to rampant centre Kotoni Staggs inspiring a 28-6 win over the Bulldogs at Suncorp Stadium.
The Broncos, on 17 points, are now in ninth position and just one point behind eighth-placed Penrith and right in the finals hunt.
It is a far cry from what they were facing less than a fortnight ago when they trailed 22-12 in the second half against Cronulla and seemed certain to fall six points outside the eight.
A gritty 24-22 comeback against the Sharks and an 18-all draw with the Warriors followed. The Broncos have four of their final seven games at home, and two more in Queensland away to the Titans and Cowboys, and have revived a season that appeared destined for to end in round 25.
Match: Broncos v Bulldogs
Round 18 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
- Nine Network
- LIVE PASS
The Broncos' formula for success against the Bulldogs was founded by a dynamic opening by props Matt Lodge and Payne Haas.
Patrick Carrigan and Joe Ofahengaue continued the momentum off the bench, and combined with the offloading ability of Tevita Pangai jnr and David Fifita it proved too much for Canterbury.
It was a historic occasion in Brisbane with Belinda Sharpe becoming the first female in 111 years to referee a top-grade game.
A Staggs penalty gave Brisbane a 2-0 lead after a 40-20 by hooker Andrew McCullough, celebrating his 250th NRL game for the Broncos, gave the home side possession at Canterbury’s end.
Staggs was over minutes later when he wrapped around winger Jamayne Isaako, who had drawn three Bulldogs defenders in before popping a late offload to his right centre.
Staggs muscles his way over for a double
A one-on-one strip by Adam Elliott on Jamayne Isaako gave the Bulldogs field possession and five-eighth Brandon Wakeham scored his first NRL try with a combination of brute strength and guile.
The Broncos lost Anthony Milford to an HIA after being caught high by Marcelo Montoya who injure a medial in the process and left the field.
Staggs was put on report for lifting a knee while in possession in a tackle by Corey Harawira-Naera and minutes later the Bulldogs levelled through Nick Meaney.
Pangai’s offloading ability has come to the fore in recent weeks and the Tongan international delivered again on the cusp of half-time after dragging in three Bulldogs defenders. He found Darius Boyd who sent Isaako in to give Brisbane a 10-6 lead at the break.
A Staggs penalty extended Brisbane’s lead early in the second half before Boyd unleashed a trademark cut-out pass that bypassed two Bulldogs defenders and hit a flying Corey Oates on the chest.
The strength of pocket rocket Staggs stunned Canterbury when he barged over to give Brisbane a 20-6 lead.
Oates capped his best game since the State of Origin series began when he was awarded a penalty try when held back by Dallin Watene-Zelezniak when certain to score. McCullough slotted the conversion to make his milestone game a memorable one.
A cover tackle by Josh Jackson on Oates to save a certain try was a highlight for the visitors and reflective of the effort and commitment the skipper put in all night.
The Bulldogs remain on 12 points and two points clear of the bottom-placed Titans.
It was a lack of punch through the middle of the field and poor game management that cost Canterbury with the expected return of Aiden Tolman (ribs) and Kieran Foran (hamstring) next week set to boost that area of play.