Bulldogs v Dragons: Five key points
A rocks and diamonds performance from Canterbury five-eighth Josh Reynolds saw the Bulldogs reverse their last start horror show in Townsville with a 13-10 win over St George Illawarra on Friday night.
Reynolds' alleged trip steals the headlines
The incident which had everyone talking in the aftermath of the Bulldogs' win was Reynolds' questionable defensive technique, which denied Dragons back-rower Joel Thompson a certain four-pointer in the 15th minute. Reynolds' alleged trip on Thompson failed to raise any of the on-field officials' concerns however. If cited, it will be the third time in two seasons Reynolds has been charged by the Match Review Committee (MRC) for tripping. The Bulldogs playmaker was the hero otherwise when he scored the game's first try 10 minutes later and kicked a field goal on the stroke of half-time. Questions were raised by Dragons coach Paul McGregor post-game in regards to why the Bunker didn't intervene.
"I'll leave it to the powers that be," he said. "But it was [a reportable offence]."
Dramas extend to Frizell's brush with officials
Another outcome to keep an eye out for will be Dragon Tyson Frizell's brush with assistant referee Chris James in the third minute. The incident occurred when the back-rower was penalised. As Frizell stood up and turned to return to the Red V's defensive line, his immediate path was blocked by James and as a result he came into contact with the whistle blower. Coming into contact with an official has been a growing trend in 2016 though Frizell may be spared by the MRC as his contact was clearly accidental.
Bulldogs bounce back from Townsville blip
Eight days ago they were staring down the barrel of a 36-0 flogging at the hands of reigning premiers North Queensland. In a game where defence went out the window for the Bulldogs, a remarkable turnaround in attitude proved the difference in their three-point win over the Dragons. With NRL broadcaster Fox Sports billing Round 21 of the Telstra Premiership as 'Retro Round', Bulldogs coach Des Hasler did his bit.
"It was a real retro round game wasn't it? It was 13-10 and it certainly was ugly at times," he said.
"It was an important win for us. It's not the way we want to play but I think the win was definitely important. I thought the Dragons' intentions were pretty clear from the start. They were aggressive off the line and with their tackles."
Dragons all guts, no glory
They may have slumped to their fourth-straight defeat but McGregor was rather optimistic over what the Dragons could achieve in the final five weeks of the season. The Dragons were mightily unlucky not to score on a number of occasions, with desperate Bulldogs defence proving the difference. The Red V were denied two tries by the bunker in the first 12 minutes, and while their try-scoring chances didn't dry up, their lack of execution was on show for all to see.
"It was a huge improvement on the last few weeks. There's a lot of satisfaction that lies in the effort," McGregor said.
"There were a couple moments in the game though where I wish the field was about 98 metres, not 100. We probably would've scored four other tries."
Rein shift strategic, not demotion
Mitch Rein found himself starting on the bench for the Dragons for just the 11th time in his 127-game NRL career. Conjecture surrounds the off-contract rake's future but McGregor said Jake Marketo's promotion was for the sake of Rein having a greater influence further on in the game.
"Mitch has copped it a fair bit early on in games. His first-up contact is the most in the NRL out of any player. He's obviously making 50-plus tackles and the Bulldogs are a big side and they know who to get to," McGregor said.
"It was just about taking him out of that battle and really getting some excitement from him when he came on to play the last 60 minutes.
"We wanted him to be at his best when he was out there and he certainly did some good things."