Prop David Klemmer was given a small respite after his NSW Origin heroics by coming off the bench in Monday's game against St George Illawarra - but still topped the charts for his team's statistics.
The 24-year-old made 19 runs for 208 metres for his 56 minutes on ANZ Stadium – more than fullback Moses Mbye made in 80 minutes (168 metres).
On top of that Klemmer surged against the Dragons defence – three of them his Blues teammates five days ago – for 67 post-contact metres, as well as making 26 tackles and not missing one of them.
"He's been fantastic Klem,"' coach Dean Pay said. "Personally I thought he was NSW's best forward in that opening 20 minutes as well. He was great and he's been fantastic [for us] all year."
Apart from Klemmer, Pay was encouraged by the fight in his players to come from 8-0 down to draw level 16-16 midway through the second half.
But in the end the Bulldogs fell short 18-16 – the seventh time in their 10 defeats to lose by six points or less.
"You jag those and you are a long way up the ladder... But at the moment the reality is we are not," Pay said, who rued the fact the Bulldogs were outplayed in the opening 20 minutes, when the Dragons piled on two tries.
Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Dragons - Round 14, 2018
"The 60 minutes after that I thought was fantastic – probably the best footy we've played all year.
"After a really slow start ... it got away on us a bit and we fought our way back – got ourselves back into the game. We got close, but not close enough.
"You take away the first 20 and we're coming up for a win. So we're getting better. Hopefully we can put 70 minutes together next week and then 80 minutes after that. I want to make sure we get that progression, get that performance up every week," Pay said.
The round 14 clash with the Dragons was the second placed team in the Telstra Premiership taking on the 15th.
"The most frustrating part is knowing that we can match it with the top teams," captain Josh Jackson said. "But it's a consistency thing for us. We fall in and out of games and that's something the top teams don't do.
"[Top four teams]... know how to finish games and we've just got to learn to do that. When we play our best footy is when we're playing with that confidence."