Match Review: Broncos vs Bulldogs

A scrappy victory for the Broncos as they ousted the Bulldogs 22-20 in a close match at Suncorp stadium.

In terms of the Broncos’ squad for the match, youngster Haas was reward for his encouraging NRL debut versus South Sydney, as he retained his spot on the bench for the Broncos.  Elsewhere, Milford (Five-eighth), Bird (Halfback), McCullough (Hooker) and Boyd (Fullback) made up what has been a largely unproductive halves, hooker and fullback combination. In the outside backs, Isaako (Right Wing) and Oates (Left Wing) occupied the wing positions and Roberts (Right Centre) and Opacic (Left Centre) once again filled the centre roles. In the forwards, the impressive Lodge (Prop) and underperforming Thaiday (Prop) were given the responsibility of leading the Broncos’ forward pack, with the energetic Pangai Jnr (Lock) assuming McGuire’s regular starting position, and the underwhelming Su’A (Right Second Row) and defensively porous Glenn (Left Second Row) completing the Broncos’ starting line-up. On the bench, apart from Haas, Bennett elected to go with the impressive Ofahengaue (Bench Forward), underperforming Sims (Bench Forward), and Nikorima (Utility).

As for the Broncos’ on field performance versus the Bulldogs, the Broncos’ defence was excellent, only missing 14 tackles for the match.

Defence

While Lodge’s defensive effort (3 missed tackles) was underwhelming, he was the only Broncos player to miss more than 2 tackles during the game (the acceptable standard of missed tackles per match). Even the defensively porous Glenn, who had been averaging 5 missed tackles per match in the lead up to the Bulldogs clash, showed substantial improvement, only missing a solitary tackle for the match. A special mention should also go to Boyd, McCullough, Nikorima, Opacic, Roberts and Isaako, who didn’t miss a tackle during the game.

In attack, Lodge (180 run metres), Oates (171 run metres), Pangai Jnr (146 run meters), Su’A (128 run metres), Roberts (120 run metres) and Ofahengaue (115 run metres), were all excellent in their contributions to the Broncos’ go forward, contributing well in excess of 100 run metres each. While the run metre contribution of Isaako (109 run metres), Glenn (93 run metres) and Boyd (91 run metres) was admirable, and youngster Haas only lasted 7 minutes, before succumbing to injury which ended his involvement, Opacic (87 run metres), Sims (66 run metres) and Thaiday (61 run metres) were very disappointing in terms of their contribution.

Attack

While Su’A, Glenn, Roberts and Isaako, in particular, showed improvement in their contribution, the lack of run metres once again from Thaiday, Opacic and Sims, combined with Bennett’s refusal to give opportunities to the likes of Carrigan, Seve and Fai, who are all excelling in the Intrust Super Cup, was disappointing.

In terms of offloads, it was a much-improved effort from the Broncos, with 12 offloads for the match.

Passing

While Pangai Jnr (3 offloads) and Su’A (2 offloads) led the way in offloads for the Broncos, Boyd, Milford, Bird, McCullough and Nikorima weren’t able to make the most of the disorganisation in the Bulldogs’ defensive line, to individually break the opposition’s defensive line or take advantage of simple line break assist opportunities.

While the 12 offloads the Broncos produced were a significant improvement on the side’s’ recent efforts, more is needed, particularly from the Broncos’ forward pack. A lack of offloads has been a significant contributor to the Broncos’ stuttering attack so far this season, with the Bennett instead relying on moments of individual brilliance from select players to enable the team to score points.  Versus the Bulldogs, it was Boyd (a double cut-out pass to Oates), Glenn (a lovely angled run off a regulation pass from Milford) and Roberts (a well-timed short pass to Ofahengaue), who were the key point scoring contributors.

That said, relying on individual players to display moments of brilliance match after match in order for their team to score points, is an unsustainable attacking strategy (as the Broncos have proven this season).

Unfortunately, Bennett and the players don’t seem to be learning from their mistakes and playing to the strengths of their key playmakers (Milford, Bird and Nikorima). Until that happens, the Broncos’ stuttering attack is unlikely to improve.

In terms of the Broncos’ kicking game versus the Bulldogs, there was a further improvement on the Broncos’ recent performance versus South Sydney (539 kicking metres and 4 forced drop outs).

In total, the Broncos kicked for 553 metres versus the Bulldogs, and executed 7 grubber kicks, from which they forced 2 drop outs.

Kicking

While Milford’s contribution to the Broncos’ kicking game was again excellent (380 kicking metres and 1 forced drop out), the contribution of Bird (19 kicking metres and 0 forced drop outs), McCullough (57 kicking metres and 1 forced drop out), Boyd (18 kicking metres and 0 forced drop outs) and Nikorima (24 kicking metres and 0 forced drop outs) was again disappointing.

Overall, it was a much-improved performance from the Broncos, with a substantial reduction in missed tackles and an increased volume of quality run metres and offloads from a number of the Broncos’ forwards. That said, more offloads are needed from the Broncos forward pack, along with:

  • an increased volume of line breaks and line break assists from the Broncos chosen halves, hooker and fullback,
  • greater run metre production from Thaiday, Sims and Opacic, and
  • improved contribution to the kicking game from Boyd, Bird, McCullough and Nikorima.

In the past 2 rounds, versus the Rabbitohs and Bulldogs, the Broncos halve won ugly. That can be the sign of a champion team or a poor team who has run into some dumb luck. Given the ongoing stuttering nature of the Broncos’ attack, and the consistently poor defensive play of a number of Broncos players so far this season, its difficult to believe the current Broncos are a premiership elect side who are just winning ugly at present.

Objectively, significant improvements in a number of facets of the Broncos play is required, before the Broncos can genuinely be considered a potential premiership winner this season.

Freddie08

The stats and images referenced in this post are sourced from http://www.nrl.com.

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