Peter Sterling: Can the Dogs pull a Parramatta?

It’s been said that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice and for Canterbury, that’s a problem.<br><br>Following their fifth straight loss last Friday night, the ‘Dogs now need to replicate Parramatta’s whirlwind second half finish of the 2009 season if they are to play finals football, and it is long odds of that happening.<br><br>At exactly the halfway mark of this year’s regular rounds, Canterbury sit on eight points - which is actually three points shy of where the Eels found themselves 12 months ago. Remarkably, Parramatta were able to turn around their fortunes by winning eight of their last 12, including seven of their closing eight games to nail eighth spot.<br><br>Faced with a similar assignment, I guess there are two things in the ‘Dogs favour.<br><br>Firstly, a precedent has been set by the Eels. They can approach the task by thinking “if they could, we can.”<br><br>Secondly, with the extraordinary circumstances concerning the Melbourne Storm, this year is now a top nine finish for a finals berth. Whilst the Storm can deny others points, by not accruing any themselves it will allow a team to qualify who would have missed out in the past.<br><br>In the last two seasons, it has been 28 points that finished 9th and it is fairly safe to assume that this year won’t be much different.<br><br>So to put things in perspective, after the ‘Dogs receive their bye this weekend, it appears that they will have to win nine of their remaining 12 games.<br><br>Whilst I’ve said that they have a couple of things in their favour, the biggest problem is that they are not playing particularly well or consistently.<br><br>There are a number of areas that are letting them down but for me the most disappointing aspect of their defeat by the Tigers was the lack of real desperation at two critical times in such an important encounter.<br><br>The first was the absence of pressure on the Robert Lui field-goal with the scores locked up at 12-all, and just 10 minutes remaining on the clock. It had to be obvious that late in the tackle count the Tigers were setting up for a one-pointer - something they have done more than any other club this season.<br><br>Yet even with Benji Marshall moving deeper and towards the play-the-ball, the Canterbury defence wasn’t prepared to race up to foil the attempt at a time when the next score in the contest was clearly crucial. <br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=849&amp;fixtureid=50020101302&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=fieldgoal&amp;period=2&amp;time=1828" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see how the Bulldogs reacted when the field goal was on.</a><br><br>To their credit, both Michael Ennis and David Stagg made late efforts but the rest of their teammates stayed back on their heels.<br><br>It was the same five minutes later when Brett Kimmorley attempted his own field-goal from 35 metres out to try and bring it back to 13-all.<br><br>Again, instead of being desperate enough to chase the kick in case it came off an upright or failed to go dead. the majority of the Bulldogs players didn’t deem it important enough to find the energy.<br><br>As it turned out, the ball bounced awkwardly to remain in play and what should have been a difficult carry for Lote Tuqiri out of his own in-goal was made much simpler through a lack of opposition chasers. Again Stagg and some right-side defenders are devoid of blame (they did move down in an effort to force a vital line drop-out) but there's no excuse for the others.<br><br>In close matches, especially in trying conditions, the side that is mentally tougher will prevail and against the Tigers the ‘Dogs let themselves down when it counted.<br><br>What must have been frustrating for coach Kevin Moore is that for much of the clash his team’s effort was encouraging. <br><br>They certainly showed much better decision-making in defence, especially considering their poor reads in “gifting” Melbourne their opening tries just a week earlier.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=848&amp;fixtureid=50020101205&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=322" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see the poor defensive read which allowed Dane Nielson over in the opening minutes.</a><br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=848&amp;fixtureid=50020101205&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=558" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see the soft defence which allowed Chase Stanley to stroll over.</a><br><br>However their starts to games are still a concern, and whilst they scored the opening try against the Tigers, they had an opportunity to really grab the momentum and early ascendancy but failed to do so.<br><br>After just three minutes, Josh Morris bombed a certain try by not passing to an unmarked Bryson Goodwin on his outside.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=849&amp;fixtureid=50020101302&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=linebreak&amp;period=1&amp;time=178" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see the try go begging.</a><br><br>To make matters worse on the next play, after a negative decision by the video ref, five-eighth Blake Green spilled a simple pass to let the opposition completely off the hook. &nbsp;<br><br>After six minutes, Stagg lost the ball second tackle inside the opposition 20, and after 10 minutes Tigers winger Mitch Brown somehow evaded three tacklers to get out of his own in-goal.<br><br>All great chances to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.<br><br>Unfortunately for the ‘Dogs, their second-half will also be looked upon as a period of missed chances. This was a game played in awful conditions in which line breaks and opportunities were always going to be at a premium. <br><br>Leading 12-6 and with time running out, Brett Kimmorley delivered a beautiful ball on to the chest of a flying Jamal Idris on the right fringe only to see the youngster put it down.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=849&amp;fixtureid=50020101302&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=handlingerror&amp;period=2&amp;time=997" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see this costly error.</a><br><br>Shortly after, a nice interplay to the left between Joel Romelo and Michael Hodgson put Blake Green into space, but his pass after trying to beat Geoff Daniela was ruled forward. It looked a tough call but there also seemed to be enough time for Green to pass before any collision, thus avoiding the ball being hurriedly thrown and hitting ground.<br><br><a href="http://www.nrl.com/gameAnalyser/tabId/10910/default.aspx?seasonID=240?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=849&amp;fixtureid=50020101302&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=handlingerror&amp;period=2&amp;time=1504" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see where Green went wrong.</a><br><br>Whilst all of these are just individual incidents, over 80 minutes it is the little things that add up to be big ones.<br><br>Desperate times call for desperate measures and unless Canterbury can find that necessary desperation when it counts, then last year’s great effort will be but a distant memory.