Broncos' finals hunt alive after Dogs win

Brisbane are still in the hunt for an NRL finals spot after their young forwards inspired a 28-6 victory over Canterbury at Suncorp Stadium.

Tevita Pangai Jnr, David Fifita and Payne Haas all played key roles in the victory, which lifted the Broncos to just one point off eighth-placed Penrith.

Kotoni Staggs and Corey Oates - his last a penalty try in the dying stages - grabbed a double each for the hosts with Jamayne Isaako also scoring, while Bulldogs' five-eighth Brandon Wakeham's first NRL try was the only consolation for the visitors.

Haas, the NSW State of Origin representative, was a bullocking force in the first half, picking up 108 run metres by the break and making 15 tackles.

The 19-year-old finished the game with 204 running metres and 36 tackles.

Pangai Jnr, whose offload in the first half lead to a try to Isaako, finished the match with a try assist and 16 tackles while Fifita was huge off the interchange bench, worrying the Bulldogs' defensive line with several strong runs.

Staggs also had a fine game adding five tackle busts to his two tries as the Broncos ensured hooker Andrew McCullough celebrated game 250 with a victory.

McCullough iced the win with the first conversion of his NRL career from dead in front after Oates's penalty try.

"It was a really solid performance because I think Bulldogs have shown - particularly in their last few games - they don't beat themselves," Broncos coach Anthony Seibold said.

"There's no doubt it's been challenging in different periods of the year but internally we know where we're going, we've got a plan in place.

"People forget 10 players have made their debut for the club this year ... it's about learning and it's about improving and that's what we feel as though we've done."

The opening match of round 18 was also historic with Belinda Sharpe becoming the first female referee in 111-years of professional rugby league.

Sharpe had a relatively quiet night at the office as the Broncos outlasted a gutsy Bulldogs outfit, which played two-thirds of the game without centre Marcelo Montoya after he injured his left knee in a collision with Broncos' fullback Anthony Milford.

Montoya attempted to play on after getting the knee strapped but barely hobbled 10 metres before being assisted off the field by two trainers with a medial ligament injury.

Bulldogs coach Dean Pay would have been fearing he'd lost another player a few minutes later when Corey Harawira-Naera copped a knee from Staggs while attempting to tackle the Bronco.

After a review by the bunker, Staggs was placed on report for lifting his knee.

Harawira-Naera eventually carried on after confusion on the sideline over whether he was to receive a head injury assessment left the Bulldogs playing with just 12 players for a brief period.

Pay bemoaned his team's 7-3 deficit in the penalty count and disagreed with the decision to award Oates a penalty try.

"To come up with these decisions they just make it hard for themselves don't they?," Pay said.

"The game was gone so it's easy just to give a try. I thought it was ridiculous."

Brisbane make the short trip to Gold Coast next week to take on the coach-less Titans while the Bulldogs tackle the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium.