Bulldogs v Wests Tigers preview
It was billed as a mismatch for the ages, the giants of Belmore standing over the Concord Kids without breaking an ounce of sweat.
But there was plenty of perspiration in the ANZ stands when an exuberant Tigers outfit – led by a pair of David-sized zip-zip men in Luke Brooks and James Tedesco – slingshot their way to a shock 24-6 lead against last year's grand finalists a month ago.
As we've learnt over the first couple of months however, the Tigers know how to blow a lead. And it was Canterbury's own little man in Moses Mbye who slotted over a golden point field goal to complete a dastardly comeback.
The Tigers threw away another two points at Leichhardt Oval last Sunday when they let a 22-0 advantage slip against an improving Raiders outfit, who posted 30 unanswered points over the final hour.
Coach Jason Taylor lost evergreen prop Keith Galloway (shoulder) early in that game, and was forced to replace him with Ava Seumanufagai for Round 8. Matt Lodge gets the nod on the bench.
A depleted Bulldogs side outgunned a similarly depleted Sea Eagles list 28-16 last Friday, and needed all but three minutes to do it.
A boost comes in the form Sam Kasiano and Tim Browne, although the absence of Josh Morris means Moses Mbye will again fill in in the centres this week.
Watch Out Bulldogs: They may not be exactly be part of generation next anymore, but that doesn't mean 23-year-old "veteran" Tim Simona and 33-year-old spring chicken Pat Richards aren't causing a ruckus on the left edge. Over the past three games, the pair has combined for seven tries and four try assists in what is fast-becoming the side's most effective channel over the stripe. Richards is the NRL's leading pointscorer (51) and equal second in tries (six).
Watch Out Tigers: To say Bulldogs winger Curtis Rona has been getting on the scoresheet early and often this year is an understatement. It took the towering flyer just 90 seconds to nab his sixth try of the season – equal second most in the competition – against the Sea Eagles last week, continuing his impressive form since shifting from Townsville over the summer. Standing at an imposing 194 centimetres the former Cowboy has quickly become a go-to target on the side's left edge this year.
Key Match-Up: Martin Taupau v Greg Eastwood. Eastwood has been somewhat dwarfed by the Bulldogs' bevy of big men, but is still a staple of their forward pack since arriving in 2011. In comparison, Taupau has transformed into one of the game's most lethal enforcers since leaving Belmore two years ago. They go hammer and tong on Friday night before swapping them out for kava and thongs when they more than likely will meet in camp for the Kiwis on Sunday.
The History: Played 28; Bulldogs 18, Wests Tigers 10. The Round 4 result means the Kennel have now sung the team song in seven of the past eight encounters with the Tigers. They haven't quite been low-scoring affairs, either. At least 40 points have been scored between the two sides in their past six meetings, dating back to 2012.
What Are The Odds: Bulldogs $1.80 v Tigers $2.00. Money has been running four-to-one in favour of the Bulldogs according to Sportsbet. Punters don’t think it’ll be a whitewash though, with Bulldogs 1-12 the most favoured margin. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match Officials: Referee – Jared Maxwell; Assistant Referee – Gavin Badger; Touch Judges – Russell Turner & Rick MacFarlane; Video Referees – Shayne Hayne & Luke Phillips.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 7:30pm (AEST).
The Way We See It: The flashes of brilliances we're seeing out of the Tigers is fun, but the doggedness (pun intended) we're getting out of the Bulldogs is real. It's getting more and more difficult to trust the Tigers with a lead no matter how big it is and so on that basis alone, we pick the Dogs by 12.