Panthers the team to beat: Des
Des Hasler left ANZ Stadium a satisfied man as the Bulldogs recorded their first competition points of the season with a record head-to-head win over the Sharks but says his team will need to up the ante next round against the Panthers who he rates as the form team in the 2014 competition.
In a match where halfback Trent Hodkinson bagged 18 points, Chase Stanley scored a double and the final margin of 42-4 bettered the Bulldogs' previous best 38-2 effort against the Sharks in 1986, Hasler highlighted his side’s ability to make the most of its chances as the most pleasing aspect of the win.
“Those games can sometimes creep on you,” said Hasler. “Obviously they were far from full strength but you’ve still got to go through those parts of the game which are important.
“One thing that we let ourselves pretty badly down last week was our execution and possession and it was great to get through the opportunities that were afforded us with the ball.”
Canterbury’s attack was unrecognisable from the outfit that failed to put the Broncos away in Round 1, and backed up their four unanswered tries in the first half with a solid defensive effort that saw their line only breached in the dying seconds when Sharks winger Jonathan Wright crossed for a consolation try out wide.
Hasler took the opportunity in the second half to gives the likes of James Graham (200 metres and 24 tackles) an extended break as young charges Pat O’Hanlon and David Klemmer impressed with extra game time.
Bulldogs forward Dale Finucane said he felt for the undermanned Sharks, who were missing Origin stars Paul Gallen Todd Carney, Luke Lewis, Anthony Tupou and Andrew Fifita, as well as the experienced duo of Beau Ryan and halfback Jeff Robson.
“They were depleted a fair bit,” said Finucane, who felt no ill-effects from a high shot from Sharks enforcer Bryce Gibbs.
“They’ve got a lot of those player out but in saying that, I did think they could take some positives out of it with the young guys that they blooded and build on that.”
While pleased with the 80-minute performance from his side, Hasler was circumspect about his side’s progress ahead of their Round 3 with the Panthers, who are unlucky not to be undefeated after going down to Melbourne by a single point at the weekend.
“You can sometimes fall away in those games, sometimes you can give up field position,” said Hasler. “But we’re going to have to do [more of the same] against a Penrith side that I think is the form team in the competition at the moment.
“We’ll play out there at the foot of the mountain and we’re going to have to play very well against them.”