Hasler laments 'unbelievably undisciplined' Dogs
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler was at a loss to explain why his team failed so badly to cope with the slippery conditions in which the Eels thrived in Parramatta's 20-4 win over the Dogs at ANZ Stadium on Thursday night.
The Bulldogs were consistently their own worst enemies in the match. Their five first-half errors included two from the usually reliable Josh Morris; the first a cold drop from a penalty tap and the second a failed grab at a poor Chase Stanley pass.
That second Morris error came in the 25th minute, literally the play after the Dogs were tackled inside the Eels 20-metre zone for the first time in the match. Their first foray into the Eels' 10-metre zone arrived moments before half-time courtesy of a pair of penalties against the Parramatta and ended with a chip kick from David Klemmer to the corner which looked as likely as any play in the first half to yield points.
"You don't have to be a football whiz to work out that we made it pretty easy for them in the first half," Hasler said after the game.
"For those conditions we were just unbelievably undisciplined with the ball."
Hasler acknowledged the Eels' superior kicking game but insisted at the top level, opposition teams should be good enough to neutralise that threat.
"We were too ill-disciplined with the ball, we dropped it early, we couldn't maintain anything," he continued.
"Then they kicked well and they built pressure and got points off the back of it. In conditions like this you go out and try and play catch-up footy in the second half, it's just too hard. And they just ground us down.
"We just executed poorly. And we didn't play wet weather football, no matter how you want to dress it up."
The Dogs did at least improve in the second half, outscoring their opponents – who lost fullback Bevan French to a minor hamstring strain at half-time – by one try to zero (though Parramatta's two penalty kicks made it a 4-all second half on the scoreboard).
"The second half I thought we were a lot better," Hasler said.
"I don't think you can question their effort. I don't think you can question that side of it but certainly our responsibility to a game of footy and not executing it properly is poor. It's something as a group we've got to take accountability for and we do."
Bulldogs skipper James Graham admitted the team's confidence was down at the moment.
"It's never good when you're losing games," Graham said.
"It does knock you around a bit in terms of your confidence in your own ability and as a group but I don't know if it's a combination of things or just down to confidence. I just don't know."
A gamble on centre Chase Stanley moving to the halves – where he hasn't played at NRL level since a one-off start at five-eighth in 2014 – did not pay off, with the former Dragons and Storm back producing some rusty passes and kicks and one handling error.
Regular five-eighth Moses Mbye spent the entire game at hooker, where he has featured more often than not in recent weeks. Regular hooker Michael Lichaa was dropped from the team entirely while reserve half Matt Frawley – who has mixed his time of late between coming off the bench and starting in the halves – spent the whole 80 minutes of Thursday night's game on the bench.
However Hasler said given the conditions it was too tough to judge whether the punt in the halves was the correct one.
"It was pretty tough conditions tonight. It wasn't really conducive to an open style of footy there. We'll break it down and have a look [at our halves options during the week]," he said.