Win over Raiders extra valuable: Bulldogs
A gutsy win by an injury-ravaged Canterbury side was doubly valuable because it came against a team they were level with on the ladder, according to Bulldogs coach Des Hasler and prop Aiden Tolman.
The win was also important because it came heading into a weekend with no NRL, allowing the players to rest up any niggles with the benefit of coming off a win – while the Raiders will be left to stew on their below-par efforts for a fortnight before they get the chance to make amends.
The result was also impressive because it came despite the loss of two key players to injury in the first half with prop and captain James Graham (concussion, 14th minute) and five-eighth Josh Reynolds (hamstring, 39th minute) rubbed out of the game before half-time.
"When you're coming up against sides that are similar points, it was a huge game for us," Tolman said after the Bulldogs leapfrogged the Raiders and will finish Round 9 in eighth place while Canberra slump to 10th.
"Going into the Rep Round next week we've got the weekend off to regather.
"I couldn't have been prouder of the effort from the boys. It wasn't the flashiest footy game but I don't think that's us anyway. We dig in, we get down, roll up our sleeves, get some big carries, defend well, that's the style that we win off."
Of all the inspirational efforts on the night, Hasler said none were more so than Tolman's to play 80 minutes in the middle for an eventual return of 38 tackles and 203 metres.
"[Tolman] was inspirational for the boys and it was an important two points for us," Hasler said.
"Particularly after the disappointment of last week (an 18-12 loss to Wests Tigers) where we managed the game, managed everything last week except to win so to come here against a very good footy side in the Raiders and get the two points and the way we got the two points is very satisfying for them."
A big factor in the win at ANZ Stadium was Canterbury completely shutting down Canberra's potent right edge attack, while turning that same edge into a bountiful one in terms of blue and white tries.
"Our boys did a really good job on them in the first half, it was their other edge that got us with a couple of line breaks off kicks," Tolman said.
"We knew we had to, [Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana] are a quality outside back pair, they've showed what they can do all year but I thought the boys were really good, particularly on their offload.
"They got a few towards the back end of the game but across the majority of the night that left edge was really good and they had to be."
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart lamented his side's lack of patience and a recent inability to win a few close matches.
"We probably played a bit too frantic and panicked a bit. They defended very well and out-toughed us," Stuart said.
"They played better than us. That first part of the second half they had a lot of footy, we had to defend a lot but that happens in a lot of footy games and you have to be able to control that but we didn't unfortunately.
"We're in every game, it's just that we're losing the tight ones at the moment and it's frustrating.
"I thought a lot of our play both in defence and attack, it wasn't what we came to expect. We have high expectations on our footy and that's why you get really let down and disappointed, because you have high expectations and when you don't reach those expectations, as I say it's disappointing."