Bulldogs coach Des Hasler has avoided criticising his team's poor last-play options in a dire first half against the Cowboys, instead focusing on two important obstruction penalties as being among a few examples of ill-discipline that cost his team on Thursday night.
The most concerning aspect of the 30-14 loss for Bulldogs fans would have been the lack of direction at the end of sets, despite having cool-headed halfback Matt Frawley calling the shots in the absence of injured five-eighth Josh Reynolds.
Yet a Cowboys side missing their chief playmaker proved far superior to Canterbury in that respect, completely dominating possession and field position in the match, aside from an 18-minute stretch in the second half where the home side threatened a late and unlikely comeback in which they scored all three of their tries.
Crucially, an obstruction penalty against decoy runner Josh Jackson for initiating contact on Ray Thompson cost the Bulldogs the opening try of the match in just the third minute while a similar infringement – also against Jackson – cost Canterbury possession while on the attack later in the first half.
"I thought maybe in the first half we cruelled ourselves as far as our discipline and a couple of penalties with the ball," was Hasler's assessment.
"We certainly made it easy for them at getting down the field and then playing field position. I think they scored five tries, four from kicks so we made it fairly easy for them in the first half in regard to that. We weren't real disciplined there."
Hasler described the first call against Jackson as "50-50".
"That's just the way it is but I'm not going to whinge or complain about it but I thought the other one was pretty questionable as well," he said.
"They're not reasons why we lost the game... we just didn't use the ball well enough. Consequently when you find yourself chasing points, the way we had to chase points, it makes it tough."
Hasler still believed the team managed the midfield contest well.
"I thought we tackled well, I thought we managed it well, we just didn't manage our opportunities well enough and I thought our discipline was a bit wayward. Particularly when you give away penalties with the ball," he said.