Bulldogs v Dragons: Five key points
The Bulldogs left it late to overrun the Dragons, with Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds providing the spark. Here are five key points from the entertaining Telstra Premiership clash at ANZ Stadium.
Bulldogs may have found a new long-term halves combo
In a huge show of faith in the youngster, Bulldogs coach Des Hasler played Moses Mbye at starting five-eighth, benching usual pivot Josh Reynolds until deep into the second half.
Those decisions payed off brilliantly. Not only because Mbye was dynamic and near faultless for the duration of the match, but also because Reynolds had serious impact in his limited minutes.
"It won't be the way we'll go all the time but [it depends on] who we'll play," Hasler said.
"I thought he [Mbye] played pretty well in parts, obviously his ability taking the line on and he's only a young kid. He kicked a great goal under pressure."
A game of three thirds
It was all the Bulldogs early, then all the Dragons and then all the Dogs again.
"I thought the game swung a few times, definitely," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said after his side's loss.
"As Canterbury do they come out of the blocks pretty hard and jumped to a nice early lead. We worked ourselves back into a 10-6 score at half-time and that second half we started really well, put a couple of tries on and went to 16-10.
"I thought at that stage we looked within ourselves and we could go again but to Canterbury's credit they're a very good side. They just found another gear and put us to bed," McGregor said.
Meanwhile Hasler was happy to be on the right end of the swinging momentum in the closing minutes as his side blew the scoreline out with a late onslaught of points.
"It was great to hang in there and bounce back," Hasler said.
Reynolds provides awesome energy off the bench
Josh Reynolds might have played so well in limited minutes against the Dragons that he's secured himself an unlikely bench spot in upcoming weeks.
Reynolds has always played like an impact player and now that might be his best role.
"I think it was sort of that arm wrestle when he came on and he came up with a couple of big plays," Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman said.
"He pushed Dugan back and he forced the ball (out) on Nabuli as well.
"Josh is one of those types of players who knows he's got plenty of energy. [He] comes on and always tries his best. Sometimes it doesn't work out but you've got to love him for his attitude and the way he turns up every week," Tolman said.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor also accepted Reynolds had a great impact on the game, revealing he was always planning on bringing Mitch Rein onto the field to try to negate Reynolds' influence.
"He was very good," McGregor said.
"When you've got a State of Origin player 12 months ago on your bench, you're going alright with your squad."
Marshall and Widdop in tune
Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop once again combined brilliantly against the Bulldogs and are marking themselves as possibly the best halves combination in the game.
They are a similar style of player. Both can run the ball, both can sit back and control a match, and that's what makes them such a lethal combination.
Against the Dogs it was Marshall setting Widdop up for tries twice with perfect passing, in particular on the Englishman's first try where Marshall held the ball up masterfully for Widdop to stroll through.
"I thought they were very good at different stages of the game," McGregor said.
"The forwards laid a platform for them to play off."
Dragons goal-line defence falters
Rock-solid defence has been the hallmark of the Dragons top-of-the-table start to the season.
But against the Bulldogs it was broken on too many occasions for their coaches liking.
"We've been very, very good at defending our try line for multiple sets of six and today we weren't. I think that's where it was lost," McGregor said.
"We've had that real resolve on our goal line and we didn't do that every time. There were a couple of times that they got down there and they scored I know they scored wide in the corner but they still scored points."