It might be high time to put an all-points bulletin across every available media platform in an effort to locate the whereabouts of the ‘missing in action’ Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
After a promising opening, the blue and whites crumbled to a 36-16 loss against the Eels at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, looking forlorn and disheartened late in the game. They now face an uphill battle to overcome a challenge that presents itself as potentially season breaking or making.
Early tries to Kieran Foran and Reimis Smith had the Bulldogs up 10-0 after just 17 minutes and the carcass that lay on Mount Smart Stadium after the thumping 40-6 loss to the Warriors in Round 1, appeared to have come back to life.
The lead was built on the back of an outstanding completion rate and led to an opening 25 minutes where Parramatta were starved of quality ball, thanks to their own errors and Canterbury’s efficiency.
However, as is the case with almost all NRL matches in the modern era, momentum would swung and a patient Eels team responded with two late tries to enter the sheds with a slender 12-10 lead.
In reality, the Bulldogs should have led at the break and potentially by a decent margin, after the encouraging signs in the opening exchanges. Sadly for Dean Pay, the same impotency in attack that has plagued the team for some time was once again at play, with little threat made on the Eels defensive line once possession had swung back in their favour.
Tries in the 41st, 45th and 49th minutes built a 30-10 lead for the blue and gold and only a late try to Dylan Napa in the 63rd minute gave the Bulldog’s fans reasons to leave their seats. Although quite a number did leave the stadium prematurely, disgusted with a second below par performance to start the season.
A late four-pointer to Parramatta iced the match and the final 36-16 scoreline. With 76 points having already slipped through Canterbury’s swiss cheese defence, Pay will undoubtedly make that the focus throughout the coming week; knowing full well that a continuation of the defence efforts seen on Sunday is completely unsustainable.
Kieran Foran and Lachlan Lewis battled hard behind a well beaten pack and Napa tried to inspire his forwards with 182 running metres of his own. Sadly for Canterbury, there were few positives to take from the game.
With an equal share of ball, Parramatta were simply too good and dented the Bulldogs’ defence far too easily. Atrocious defensive reads were once again on show for all to see, as Marcelo Montoya and Kerrod Holland were caught out on numerous occasions and Jeremy Marshall-King failed to ignite the Bulldogs’ attack from dummy half, making just 34 metres and only once seriously threatening to break into the open field.
Blake Ferguson’s 298 run metres, the dangerous Clint Gutherson and Parramatta’s dynmic and exciting halves combination further highlighted the lack of punch and purpose in the Canterbury attack. It requires an urgent recharge or the season will be well and truly lost by the time the origin series begins.
The Bulldog’s fans had been rabid through the week, calling for change after the Round 1 drubbing. The coach must be given more time considering the inherited nature of his squad, however Canterbury-Bankstown lacked heart in the second half against the Eels; something you rarely see from a team wearing the blue and white.
Rhyse Martin will surely come back into the side, despite an obvious issue between he and the coach and there must be some immediate action to address the ease with which the Eels were able to slice the Bulldog’s back line open.
Yes, there were two intercepted passes thrown that led directly to Parramatta tries, yet suggestion of misfortune playing anything more than a minor role ignores a humbling truth.
The 2019 Bulldogs are well off the pace, so far in fact, that they may even have lost sight of the front runners at this early stage of the competition. The wooden spoon market will be frozen on Monday morning, with punters looking to grab the ever slimming odds on the Bulldogs’ chances of claiming the most unenviable of prizes.
Unless there is change, both in performance and personnel, the definition of insanity will prevail; with more losses inevitable for the 17 selected in the first two rounds.
The hole is considerable, yet climbing from it is possible. It will take a mighty lot of Bulldog spirit to get it done and a collective team effort. If their best efforts fail, the Bulldogs could be set for one of the most challenging NRL seasons in their history.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 Parramatta Eels 36