Ennis demands 80-minute effort
Canterbury captain Michael Ennis says the sensational form of the team's big men against St George Illawarra has given the Bulldogs a massive confidence boost entering the business end of the season.
But Ennis adds that the challenge now for all of the Bulldogs is to reproduce the best elements of their form in beating the Dragons for the entire game against Gold Coast at ANZ Stadium on Monday night.
The Bulldogs began well against the Dragons at WIN Jubilee Oval last Monday, and quickly led 8-0, but the Dragons scored the next 20 points to leave the opposition with seemingly a mountain to climb over the last 30 minutes. But they did it easily, going on to win 39-20.
Ennis says the Bulldogs won't be able to keep getting away with putting themselves in positions like that.
"We're still chasing that 80-minute performance," Ennis said. "We need to make sure that if we get out of the blocks well, like we did against the Dragons, we go on with it. You're going to pay eventually if you keep having lapses in the middle of games.
"That's the challenge against the Titans – to start well and keep it going. They're fighting for a place in the top eight, so it's going to be a tough game. We've had some tough battles with them over the years, so we know what to expect.
"Greg Bird and Nate Myles are just two of the quality players in their side. They are team leaders who set a great example. The Titans are a team that moves the ball around well, and they've got skill out on the edges through blokes like Brad Takairangi.
"Plus, their halfback – Aidan Sezer – is playing against his old club. Blokes tend to lift for that."
But back to the big boppers in the Bulldogs' side. We're talking about Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Tony Williams, James Graham, Aiden Tolman and Greg Eastwood. That is a heck of a lot of prime footballing beef right there.
They all played a part in the win over the Dragons, but it was Kasiano, Williams and Pritchard who were particularly destructive when the game was on the line.
During the last 30 minutes the Bulldogs scored five tries, with two apiece coming from Kasiano and Williams. They also had two line-breaks each, and Kasiano finished the game with two offloads and Williams one.
Pritchard ran for the most metres of any Bulldogs forward on the night, with 117, and also had an offload.
Once they got going, the trio were irresistible as they used their huge frames to power down the field, bending and eventually breaking the Dragons' defence. The opposition simply had no answer to what they were doing.
Ennis was in the best possible position to observe, as dummy-half.
He was first on the scene to observe all of the opportunities that were opening up off the back of the charges by the big men, and he, halfback Trent Hodkinson and five-eighth Josh Reynolds made sure the Bulldogs took advantage of them.
Asked what it was like on the night, Ennis replied: "To be honest, it was special, to be able to play off the back of that. They shared the workload and they were so effective in what they were doing. The amount of space they created in the last 30 minutes was amazing.
"We definitely took a huge amount of confidence out of that game, but now we've got to reproduce that. We know we can.
"Injury meant Sam was late starting the season, and then we lost him injured for a few weeks again recently. And 'T-Rex' (Williams) had an ankle problem holding him back for a while. But now everyone's OK and our big guys were tremendous the other night.
"This is an exciting time of the year, and we're heading into it feeling positive about what we're capable of doing if we keep up the hard work and play for 80 minutes."
Ennis said the vibe at Bulldogs training was fantastic, and was largely due to the fun way Pritchard and Kasiano bounce off each other with their personalities.
"They're both great characters," he said. "They make the downtime at training really good. You train hard and then at the end of it guys like Sam and Frank come up with something that makes everyone laugh.
"It's a really positive, enjoyable environment to be in at the Bulldogs, and you need that if you're going to be a successful footy club."