Rabbitohs v Bulldogs: Five key points
The Bulldogs got a modicum of revenge for their Good Friday defeat earlier in the year in a powerful exhibition of rugby league, downing the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on Friday night. Here are five talking points from the 32-18 win.
Yet another freakish finish
Right on half-time the Bulldogs scored a try that had to be seen to be believed. Up 18-0 and setting for a Trent Hodkinson field goal, an attempted charge down from Glenn Stewart saw the ball deflect across field then back off the hands of John Sutton towards the in-goal. The greatest desperation to get to the ball was from rookie hooker Damien Cook, who shot from dummy half to toe the ball ahead then win the race as it bounced over the dead ball line, flinging it back infield where Sam Perrett was on hand to ground it for the unlikeliest of tries.
"It was an outstanding play," Bulldogs skipper James Graham said after the game.
"A lot of the highlights reel for the NRL is full of them. Kevin Naiqama [did one] against us here and other players do similar things and it's all over the adverts for months and weeks and maybe years to come so it was a really special play."
Cook said he wasn't sure he'd get there once he'd kicked ahead and Bryson Goodwin got in his way.
"I was hoping, I thought I was going to get it myself. But then one of them ran me off the ball and I was lucky that Sammy Perrett was coming up behind me and it made it look better than what it was," he said.
Consistency eludes Souths
After putting the competition on notice with a powerful win over frontrunners North Queensland up in Townsville, the Rabbitohs came crashing back to earth on Friday night.
Their coach Michael Maguire lamented the lack of consistency after errors at crucial times hindered their ability to attack or build pressure. Despite finishing with more ball than their opponents with 53 per cent of possession, making fewer errors overall (9-7) and leaking fewer penalties (7-4) they squandered their chances while Canterbury took theirs.
"We've just got to learn how to play consistent footy to the way we're capable of playing. If we can do that, then we've shown what sort of team we can be," he said.
"It's just a matter of making sure we turn up and do that week in, week out. That's pretty straightforward with what we saw tonight.
"If you don't have the ball, you can't build pressure. At the end of the day, that comes back down to how you turn up.
He said if the side can find the sort of performance it put in against the Cowboys when they meet the Broncos next Thursday they'll be able to turn things around.
"If we find that game from last week, and we turn up and do that, obviously this Thursday, then the outcomes can be different," he said.
"It wasn't pretty at times. And we can play a lot better than what we showed there tonight. But full credit to Canterbury, they jumped out of the blocks and performed very well.
"Tonight we had a couple of fifth tackle penalties and defensively we didn't show what we were capable of."
Concussion concerns as Dogs take knocks
Bulldogs bench prop Tim Browne's night was limited to just four minutes. He came on at the 20-minute mark and shortly after went in for a tackle on Adam Reynolds as the latter put a kick in and came off second best. He didn't look too bad as he left the field for a concussion check but his coach Des Hasler said after the game Browne had failed the concussion check and was unable to return.
Skipper James Graham was a different kettle of fish; after his head collected Tim Grant's hip straight after half time he got up visibly wobbly. The trainer insisted on taking him from the field for a test despite animated protests from the man himself, who returned just over 20 minutes later.
"I wasn't concussed," Graham said when questioned after the match.
"Obviously I showed signs of a concussion but came in, did the test, passed and I was allowed to return to the field."
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire was less impressed.
"There's rules in place in the game – I'd like to think they go through those," he said.
"The concussion rule's there and the game has to adjudicate that and how they saw it."
Bulldogs not quite there yet
Despite the impressive win moving them to 28 points and sixth place on the live ladder, the Bulldogs were well aware after the game that they haven't confirmed a finals berth just yet.
"It was probably one that we needed given the complexity of the eight at the moment," Hasler said in reference to the mid-table logjam that currently sees the Storm, Bulldogs and Sharks all on 28 points with Manly likely to join the Dragons on 26 points on Sunday. One of the five has to miss out.
"There's still two games to go and we've got to keep winning. To a certain extent, if we do that, that way we will control our own outcome and see what happens around us. But tonight was an important win for us," Hasler said.
"Obviously [Souths] were a bit under-strength, but we knew we had to turn up and be pretty determined because they're in pretty good form, Souths. There's probably a few areas there we can improve, a little bit sloppy there a couple of times. Probably let one or two tries that we didn't need to do. But really pleased with the win. Very happy for the boys. It's been tough the last month and it's not going to get any easier."
Halfback Trent Hodkinson added: "We know how important the last few games are and it was a great start tonight but we can't get too far ahead of ourselves. We've still got Newcastle next week and then the Warriors which will be dangerous the last round. We'll get back to work straight away."
Bulldogs start fast
After underwhelming starts in their past two wins – and an appalling start three rounds ago in a loss to the Roosters that saw them down 22-0 early – Canterbury were determined to begin better this time around, and it showed.
The opening half went attacking set for attacking set, with the Bulldogs getting into position and scoring a try, then Souths getting into position and either being turned away by the blue and white defence or being frustrated into making an error.
While the Rabbitohs clawed a few tries back in the second half to make the scoreline more respectable there is no question this was one and lost in a powerful opening stanza by the Dogs.
"We spoke about it all week, that our start was very important and it set up the rest of the game," Hodkinson said.
"Just in the past couple of weeks just silly errors and unforced errors that make it hard for ourselves so we cut out them and went set for set with the Rabbitohs and it was a great start."
On the flipside, Maguire lamented the fact his troops weren't able to overcome Canterbury's early dominance.
"They built a bit of pressure at the start, scored a couple of tries early, and then we had to work our way back into it," he said.