The Broncos have outclassed the Bulldogs today 36-22 to ensure Darren Lockyer’s 300th game for the club was a memorable one, the victory giving veteran Lockyer something to smile about, as the Broncos at times struggled to put the plucky Canterbury side away.
Lockyer, who made his debut way back in 1995, set up three of the Broncos’ six tries as they reclaimed fifth spot on the competition ladder from the Dragons and put themselves in the box seat to claim a home final should the Roosters slip up next weekend.
Lockyer copped a nasty knock to his wrist early in the game but recovered to lead the visitors to an 18-12 half-time lead after falling behind 12-0 early to the cellar-dwelling Bulldogs in driving rain.
He said while it was pleasing to get the win in his milestone game, the Broncos would have to lift their intensity for the finals.
“It’s been a wonderful journey and it’s good to get the two points today so it makes it a little bit better,” Lockyer told ABC Grandstand.
“We’re probably not happy with the way we played, the (wet) conditions didn’t help, but at the same time we can’t really start big games in that fashion because it’s going to be too hard to dig ourselves out of those holes.
“We’ve been a bit scratchy the last couple of weeks, it’s just a matter of putting it together.
“I think not having Mick Ennis there today didn’t help, our combination around the ruck suffered early, we just didn’t gel real well.
“In the end we got the two points but our defence just needs to be a bit better too.”
The win held extra significance for the Broncos as it marked Wayne Bennett’s 350th NRL win as he prepares to depart the club he has coached since its inception in 1988.
While it was good news for the Broncos, it was a poor send-off for two Bulldogs veterans – coach Steve Folkes and hooker Corey Hughes – who were involved in their last home game for the club after years of service.
The match was played in front of a sparse crowd, and Lockyer admitted the lack of atmosphere was not conducive to a good performance.
“It’s not a great ground for rugby league, obviously there’s reasons why we play here but I think it should be reserved for the big ones,” he said.
“It does lack a bit of atmosphere and I just think the fans probably come here and go home wondering what could be better.”
After watching the Bulldogs cross for the first two tries, including an intercept to Heka Nanai against the run of play, the visitors finally snapped into action with three tries in the space of 15 minutes in the opening stanza.
A brilliant ball from Lockyer to Justin Hodges in the 31st minute put the loping centre on the outside of his opposite man Tim Winitana, and the Broncos soon went ahead with David Stagg’s try five minutes from the break.
Hodges secured a double just three minutes into the second half when he ran around Bulldogs skipper Andrew Ryan on the right edge, and despite some late consolation tries the Bulldogs never really threatened.
Sam Thaiday also crossed for a brace for the Broncos but could be in trouble after being put on report for a lifting tackle late in the game.
Brisbane 36 (S Thaiday 2, J Hodges 2, D Stagg, J Moon tries; C Parker 6 conversions)
Canterbury 22 (H Nanai 2, C Hughes, J Hickey tries; H El Masri 3 conversions)