Dragons coach Paul McGregor knew his side would face a fired-up Bulldogs team on Monday but believes poor options in attack – rather than Canterbury's desire to bounce back from a four-game losing streak – was the reason the Red V were beaten 16-2 at ANZ Stadium.
A brutal examination of their defence in the opening 10 minutes saw the Dragons repel the blue and whites for five consecutive sets, but the tackling onslaught took its toll with the Red V too fatigued to execute their attacking set plays at the other end of the field.
The Dragons have been the form attacking side in the competition this season but couldn't find a way through Canterbury's defensive wall, with their coach blaming a 406-304 tackle count for his team's woes.
"I thought our try line 'D' was outstanding to be honest," McGregor said after the game.
"They had a lot of possession early and we kept turning them away and we built a bit of pressure towards the end of the first half.
"I just don't think we rewarded ourselves at any time today for the good work that we had done. We were a bit impatient at times and the ends to our sets weren't as clinical as they have been in the past. We really didn't build any pressure on the position while they did that well today against us.
"We made 100 more tackles than the opposition. That's a lot of 'D' so it takes it out of you when you do get the ball and you're just a step away from everything.
"They were just one step ahead of us across the park."
Despite sitting at different ends of the ladder, McGregor knew the Bulldogs would pose a threat as they attempted to avoid five straight losses in front of their home fans.
"The bounce back was always going to be there from a team that was under some pressure. They lost their last four, but we were looking forward to that challenge," he said.
"We're building a footy team and we've got to continue that but we didn't do that. I'm not too disheartened about the loss; there are certainly a few things that we need to better at. We just didn't reward ourselves with anything today and that's not good enough."
Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop was proud of the way his side performed with the ball but conceded their 13 errors and inability to procure repeat sets drained them of enough energy to mount any meaningful challenges with ball in hand.
"We did a lot of defending, and to the boys' credit, our effort and attitude was great," he said.
"It's what we want every week, but like Mary said, with the ball we were probably just off the pace a little bit. There were a few too many turnovers and at times we were a bit impatient when we had them on the back foot."