Top four spot slipping away from Bulldogs
They might be limping into this year's final series, but Bulldogs players say they can turn around their late-season slump by simply holding onto the ball.
The Bulldogs were their own worst enemy in Round 24, making a whopping 16 errors against the Broncos before backing it up with a further 12 mistakes against the Cowboys last week.
Those sorts of numbers are perilous against most teams, let alone last year's grand finalists.
Winger Brett Morris isn't pushing the panic button yet and believes his side's impressive mid-season form will return once their ball handling improves.
"We believe that we need to get better in certain areas and a lot of that comes down to individual errors," Morris said.
"Some people are guilty of making errors – myself included – which aren't acceptable.
"We just need to tweak a few things with our shape. A couple of times on the weekend we probably had some communication breakdowns, but they're easy things to fix."
As a result of their growing error rate the Bulldogs' attack has suffered in recent weeks, with the blue and whites managing just five tries in their back-to-back defeats.
"We're probably doing a lot more defence than we need to as a result of the errors," Morris explained.
"Usually when that happens you find that you get a bit more fatigued than usual and when you're trying to do your attacking plays, you've got less juice than you'd normally have.
"For us it's about holding the ball, getting in the grind with sides, maintain possession and really try to build some pressure."
Bulldogs hooker Michael Lichaa said his side was in the contest against the Cowboys last week until a couple of errors and the boot of Johnathan Thurston combined to starve them of any ball.
As a result, they simply couldn't find the energy to mount any attacking pressure.
"We've just got to hold the ball. I guess you get gassed when you've got six repeat sets against you in a row," Lichaa said.
"We defended it – we got through it – but obviously it gasses you so when you've got the ball you're just trying to get through it [fatigue]."
Thursday's loss at Belmore saw North Queensland leapfrog the Bulldogs into the Telstra Premiership top four, with Canterbury's finals fate now out of their control.
A win on Friday against the Rabbitohs – coupled with losses to the Broncos and Cowboys – would see them finish the regular season in fourth spot and earn a second chance in the finals, but Lichaa isn't counting on any favours.
"Whatever happens now happens. It's out of our control so the only thing we can control is our last game. It'd be nice if other games go our way this week, but if not that's just the way it is," he said.
Morris said this week's showdown with South Sydney would bring out the best in his side as they sought to exact some revenge for their 2014 grand final defeat.
The 30-year-old was still at the Dragons when the Bulldogs went down 30-6 in the decider and said there was a noticeable lift amongst the playing group whenever a clash with the Bunnies loomed.
If their last two meetings are anything to go by – the Bulldogs raced out to 22-0 and 32-0 leads at the break – Canterbury are set to finish off the regular season in style and head into the finals with momentum back on their side.
"We've got a pretty good rivalry with Souths and we're pumped for a big game this week, as will they in what's their last game of the year," Morris said.
"I think for the guys that were here, that was a sad day for them and certainly a day that they would love to change.
"The only way you can go about that is by beating them every time you play them. It definitely hurts for those guys but it's one of those games that they mark on the calendar and look forward to playing."
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