Pay stands by young halves despite Bulldogs' lack of bite
Bulldogs coach Dean Pay has vowed to stick by young halves Lachlan Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King after a listless attacking display against Parramatta dropped his side deep into a battle to dodge the wooden spoon.
Canterbury made all the running early in a 14-8 loss that saw their last-tackle plays and options pressing the Eels line bring them unstuck, consigning to a share of equal last on 10 competition points and their seventh loss in eight games.
At one point the Bulldogs opted to take a penalty goal while trailing by eight late in the second half, having never looked liked scoring for the previous 30 minutes.
While Pay could not fault his side's effort, he conceded the contest proved "painful to watch" at times with his young playmakers unable to take charge of Canterbury's attack.
"We had a fair bit more ball than them, we just didn't do enough with it," Pay said.
"We had a couple of young blokes there playing in the halves who were going sideways, we've got to dig into the line and create some opportunities for ourselves."
The Bulldogs are particularly thin when it comes to scrumbase options given Kieran Foran's season-ending toe injury.
While bench utility Nu Brown played the majority of his games at Cronulla at five-eighth before coming to the Dogs in 2018, Matt Frawley is Pay's only other halves option in his top-30 squad, with Josh Cleeland on a development contract and Newcastle's Jack Cogger joining the club in 2019.
As a result Pay backed his current pairing of Lewis - who re-signed on a two-year deal this week - and Marshall-King to bounce back and see out a season that could have the club finish with a wooden spoon for the first time since 2008.
"You can't just throw them out; we've got to stick with them and keep working hard," Pay said.
"They're going to get better but it's just a progression of where we're at."
In a further blow for Canterbury, prop Clay Priest suffered ligament damage to his elbow midway through the Eels loss and is facing two-to-three weeks on the sideline.