Canterbury coach Trent Barrett has pleaded for the NRL match review committee not to impose another charge on English prop Luke Thompson after he was placed on report for a crusher tackle late in Saturday’s gritty 22-16 loss to Newcastle.
The Bulldogs fought hard and showed signs of improvement but discipline, errors and attacking options saw them fall just short as the Knights hung on after a spectacular 80th minute try by Canterbury winger Jayden Okunbor gave his side hope of snatching victory.
However, Thompson was again placed on report in his comeback from a three-match ban and if suspended again his season could be finished.
Bulldogs second-rower Corey Waddell was reported twice for a late tackle on Mitch Barnett and an incident described by Barrett as “silly”, in which he tried to rip off Kalyn Ponga’s headgear.
“We need to get that out of our game because it compounds on our errors as well, so it is something we need to address and individuals need to address as well,” Barrett said of Canterbury’s discipline.
However, he defended Thompson, who has attracted interest from Wests Tigers and North Queensland but wants to serve out the remaining two years of his contract at Belmore.
Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Knights
The former St Helens front-rower missed the opening four rounds due to a suspension incurred last season but has managed to avoid any further disciplinary issues until receiving a three-match ban for a late tackle on Cronulla hooker Blayke Brailey in round 19.
“I would hate to see Luke Thompson go again for something like that because he does work really hard on it,” Barrett said. “We want to get that out of our game and we work really hard not to put the ball-carrier in that position.
“We do work really hard on popping their head out and making sure we don’t put that tackled player in a vulnerable position, but a lot of players can get their head back in there too, and get a penalty.”
Barrett was disappointed for his players after fighting back from 10-0 down at half-time to fall just short, with two tries in four minutes to Jake Clifford and Bradman Best midway through the second half proving the difference.
Okunbor’s try with 37 seconds remaining in the match was a stunning effort as he latched onto a Lachlan Lewis crossfield kick while running at full pace and got the ball down just before the dead ball line.
“I was really happy for Jayden, I thought he has carried the ball strong, his yardage carries were good and he has come up with a really good try,” Barrett said.
Okunbor with his entry for try of the year!
“He is coming back off a knee reconstruction and got thrown straight into first grade so I think that will do his confidence the world of good.”
Barrett also praised rookie hookers Jackson Topine and Bailey Biondi-Odo.
“Topine and Biondi are both not natural dummy halves and had to get through a lot of work,” he said. They can both still play Flegg [under 20s] so there is some good stuff there.”