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Canterbury coach Kevin Moore says it is up to his senior players to offer more support to young halves Kris Keating and Trent Hodkinson following a dramatic slide in their attacking efficiency over the past three weeks.

Statistics obtained from NRL Stats show that the Bulldogs were the most lethal side in the competition over the opening seven rounds inside their opponents’ ‘red zone’ but have dropped all the way down to 14th following consecutive losses to Brisbane, St George Illawarra and Canberra.

Moore said it was inevitable that halves of such limited experience would suffer from inconsistency but insisted it wasn’t fair to lay the blame wholly on his junior playmakers.

“Both Kris and Trent have been really good for us the entire year but Friday night was probably their worst performance of the year and they were both very disappointed after the game,” he said.

“They’re both good kids that work very hard at their game so we just need to sit down – we’ve had a good look at where we went wrong and the things that we need to improve.

“I’ve got no doubt that they’ll bounce back this week but the rest of the team needs to help them, too. I don’t think we helped those young guys much last week with some of our options on the outside. We didn’t have a lot of bodies in motion and blokes went away from doing their roles, which makes it harder for the halves.”

The Bulldogs have averaged fewer run metres, line-breaks, try assists and tackle-breaks during the past three weeks than they had over the opening seven rounds, while their attacking efficiency has dropped by almost 75 per cent.

Incredibly, the Bulldogs averaged an NRL-best 17 touches for each try scored during their impressive start to the year but have taken a whopping 61.5 since Round 8 – behind only Canberra and the Sydney Roosters.

But Moore contends the statistics are misleading.
“Certainly against Brisbane and St George – they’re two of the best defensive sides in the competition,” he said. “They defended well against us and not a lot of sides have scored points against them.

“Against Canberra we were far more disappointing but there were a number of factors there. We had a young guy in at dummy-half in Josh Reynolds and it was always going to be tough for him to come straight into the side without Mick Ennis there.

“Unfortunately his cohesion with Kris and Trent wasn’t quite where we’d like it to be just yet so overall we need to be better when attacking [the opposition] line.

“But that will come with experience – and you can throw Ben Barba into that mix, too.

“He has been great for us but he has only played 10 games at NRL level at fullback so we don’t have a lot of experience there. The more they play together, the better they’ll get.”

Despite their recent woes, the Bulldogs still find themselves in eighth spot on the ladder and will welcome back State of Origin hooker Ennis, fitness permitting, for Friday night’s trip to the Gold Coast.

Moore pointed to upcoming games against the Titans and Manly as vital to the club’s finals hopes in 2011.

“Certainly, the next two weeks I see as critical for our season,” he said. “It’s not do or die just yet but we’re in a position where if we win those two and then go into the bye, you’re feeling pretty comfortable with yourself.

“But we’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure that happens. There were certainly some positives to be taken from the past few weeks but in the end you’ve got to accumulate points to get to the back end of the season.

“All you can do is put your thoughts ahead to this week and we’ve got the Gold Coast on Friday night.

“We know we need to go up there and be very good to beat them.”