They say winning ugly is still winning – and “they” are correct – but the Bulldogs would still be well aware they need to lift their intensity before the finals start in a month’s time or they could face an early exit from the title race.
The Belmore boys hardly ever looked like losing to the Raiders but could easily have done so if not for a Brett Kimmorley field goal right on halftime, which was kicked more out of convenience than anything else.
Maybe the above assessment is a little harsh on the Canberra side, who mounted a nice comeback late in the match and could have taken the lead in the 71st minute had Terry Campese’s sideline conversion attempt drifted just a touch to the left.
The Raiders threw the ball around, giving fans plenty of entertainment, but somehow the Bulldogs, despite being well off their best, ground out the result and maintained their place in outright second on the NRL ladder.
The season was already over for the Raiders and they finish the weekend in 13th place on the ladder, now with a month left to avoid the wooden spoon (which they should have no problems with).
The Game Swung When… Brett Kimmorley decided to pot a field goal nearing halftime. It gave the Bulldogs a nine-point buffer at 15-6 so it wasn’t about much apart from the fact the clock was running out and the opportunity was there.
It turned out to be a crucial play though, as the Raiders mounted a comeback from 21-10 down to get to 21-20 inside the final 10 minutes. Had Kimmorley not slotted the one-pointer the game would have been tied and anything could have happened.
Who Was Hot… Bulldogs halfback Brett Kimmorley ran the show in this match, scoring a try and setting up two others.
Kimmorley was well supported by lock forward David Stagg who tackled his heart out (as always) for 57 tackles in 70 minutes but also upped his involvement in attack to run for 97 metres with a line break and six tackle breaks.
Canberra lock forward Josh Miller had a busy game with 106 metres and 29 tackles in just 47 minutes while fullback Josh Dugan ran his heart out for 205 metres.
Who Was Not… A few of the Bulldogs were off their best but the only possible major concern is that of the defence of Josh Morris. The young centre is having a great season which has included multiple tries and a State of Origin debut but he missed six tackles – a few of which led directly to Canberra tries. He needs to get over his Origin ‘hangover’ fast.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… Seems ages since we’ve seen a scrum won against the head but it happened after 20 minutes in this game when the ’Dogs did just that!
This game also provided two sensational bombed tries from the Bulldogs; the first ruined by a simple dropped ball and the second a forward pass.
After 48 minutes Brett Kimmorley made a great bust up the middle, found his fullback Luke Patten, who stepped and weaved around defence before finding Kimmorley who propped and positioned the flying David Stagg perfectly and released a nice pass onto the lock forward’s chest – only to see the former Bronco drop it cold!
In the 53rd minute it was Michael Ennis’ turn to find his way through the line; when he passed inside to a thundering Jarrad Hickey, a try looked imminent. But the big prop started running on the treadmill and as the cover came from everywhere he tried to pass left, only to do so forward.
The Raiders also bombed a try chance, in slightly comical fashion. Young hooker Travis Waddell sighted a gap from close range and tried to dive over from dummy-half – only to plant his head firmly into the buttocks of team-mate Scott Logan, which eventually was ruled an obstruction!
In terms of other interesting moments the Bulldogs’ opening try was beautiful in its simplicity. The home side just pushed the ball to the left, going from halfback Brett Kimmorley to prop Ben Hannant, who spun nicely and offloaded back to the veteran as he ran around his front-rower. Kimmorley then gorgeously picked out Bryson Goodwin on the wing with a looping cut-out pass to get the scoreboard attendant working in the early moments.
But while the Goodwin try was nice, Raider Terry Campese then produced the type of play usually reserved for a backyard game against the neighbourhood kids. With the tackle count depleted and deep in attack, the Raiders’ five-eighth shaped to go wide but instead grubbered ahead for himself and comfortably regathered and dived over for a try.
Young forward Joel Thompson then provided a nice individual effort of his own on the right edge in the second half.
But maybe the try of the match was the last one, to Raiders winger Daniel Vidot. After some brilliant second-phase offloads in the middle of the pitch, the ball was shifted right where second-row forward Bronson Harrison produced a neat step and then a dummy to bust through and send Vidot over.
Injuries… Joel Monaghan suffered a severe cork in his left leg and had his night cut short, while Bulldog David Stagg suffered some mild concussion when he placed his head in the wrong position making a tackle.
Refs Watch… Jared Maxwell and Bernard Sutton had no major problems allowing footy to take the headlines.
Bad Boys… None to report.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Brett Kimmorley (Bulldogs): A vintage display from the halfback which included some breaks of his own, some sublime playmaking skills, a solid kicking game and just all-round professionalism; 2 points – David Stagg (Bulldogs): Had made a massive 57 tackles after 70 minutes before he placed his head in the wrong spot and was replaced but we have come to expect such a workload. His attacking game was up a notch as well – a great effort; 1 point – Josh Miller (Raiders): Gave his all in his time on the field both in attack and defence. Lifted his team-mates and helped the Raiders back into the contest.
Bulldogs 23 (B Goodwin 2, D Stagg, B Kimmorley tries; H El Masri 3 goals; B Kimmorley field goal) def Raiders 20 (T Campese, J Thompson, P Graham, D Vidot tries; T Campese 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 13,310.