Coach Des Hasler admits his side's 16-12 win over the Knights wasn't pretty, but is happy to bank the two competition points all the same as the Bulldogs juggernaut rolls on for a fifth consecutive week.
Despite struggling for cohesion in attack and trailing with less than 10 minutes to go, a late try to prop Aiden Tolman saw the Bulldogs overcome a spirited Newcastle outfit for the first time in four starts against the Novocastrians.
The Dogs now sit atop the NRL ladder all on their own following their sixth win from eight starts, though the Tigers, Sea Eagles and Titans can join them with wins on Sunday. Hasler said his side would head into next weekend's representative break happy with their early season efforts.
"It wasn't a great game from either side but I guess the great thing is we walk out of the stadium with the points," said Hasler.
"I said all along the early stages of this competition are about getting wins like that and getting the points for them.
"With the rep season coming upon us pretty quickly they're the sort of points you need towards the back-end of the season."
Despite the win Hasler took issue with the refereeing of what was a physical encounter, saying the policing of wrestling in the ruck by the Knights was too lenient.
The veteran coach produced a wry smile when quizzed on a crucial second half call that went against the Bulldogs, when the touch judge failed to award a 40/20 to Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds as the Knights clung to 12-10 lead.
"It was a 40/20," said Hasler, who then posed a question of his own.
"Is the ball on the line out? Yeah? Then probably the touchie needs to do a bit of work."
Reynolds continued to press his Origin claims with a hand in two of his side's tries and 110 running metres, as well as a crucial ball-and-all tackle on Knights forward Robbie Rochow close to the line, and Hasler said he expected his five-eighth to feature for the Blues in the series opener on May 28.
“I think the way it is and the way he’s been playing, Josh deserves to be in the 17 somewhere,” Hasler said.
While Knights five-eighth Jarrod Mullen also performed admirably in a losing side, Reynolds's typically dogged performance should have the Bulldogs pivot at the top of the queue for the NSW No.6 jersey in light of incumbent James Maloney's shoulder injury, though Reynolds and Mullen are likely to square off again in a week's time when the City and Country sides are named Sunday evening.