The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have comprehensibly defeated the St George-Illawarra Dragons; outlasting the once mighty Red V to the tune of 22-2 at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta.
It was the blue and whites’ first win of an interrupted season and one that moves them to within a game of a top eight position. They have a chance to move into that eight with a win against the intimidating Roosters next Sunday at the same venue.
There were three clear factors that combined to earn the Bulldogs their first competition points of the season. Firstly, a successful return from Kieran Foran delighted fans, as the Kiwi international managed his way through a tough and uncompromising match that remained tight in the clinches for the entirety.
In addition, coach Dean Pay’s decision to return Will Hopoate to the fullback position and the subsequent opportunities that arose for Reimis Smith in the centres and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak on the wing, proved to be master strokes. As a result, the Bulldogs asked dangerous questions of the Dragons for much of the contest.
The third key element to the Doggies victory was the utterly embarrassing performance that the Dragons mustered against a committed and enthusiastic Bulldogs side.
Early on, things looked a little shaky for Canterbury with a fist full of dropped balls giving St George-Illawarra a host of early chances. However, so poor their attack was, that all the red and white could muster from their raids was a penalty goal in the 4th minute. It was to be their only scoreboard contribution for the afternoon and when Adam Elliott crashed over after 20 minutes, the Bulldogs has resurrected the ship and were well on their way to a convincing victory.
Nick Meaney converted the try before adding two penalty goals to the Bulldogs total to send the blue and white to the sheds with a 10-2 lead at the break.
It got little better for coach Paul McGregor in the second half, as Pay’s men ground down their opposition, with Meaney and Smith scoring tries and the goal-kicking winger landing two conversation attempts.
It was an uplifting victory and built on the back of a stern defensive effort that saw the Bulldogs turn up time and time again when a tackle was needed to be made. The win also somewhat erased the loss to Manly a week earlier, where Pay’s team were outclassed by Des Hasler’s ever improving Manly side.
After the early handling errors, Canterbury completed a stunning 33 sets in succession to apply the blow torch to the fumbling and bumbling Dragons. Few games are lost with an 86% completion rate and along with a dominance in metres gained from kicks (853-596), their discipline in defence and control of the ball saw the Bulldogs triumph.
Watene-Zelezniak (266), Will Hopoate (262) and Aiden Tolman (221) ran for enormous metres, whilst Jeremy Marshall-King (49) and Raymond Faitala-Mariner tackled relentlessly; both on the field for the full 80 minutes.
Lachlan Lewis topped the fantasy points after a shaky start and Adam Elliott continues to improve, with another aggressive and gutsy display to add to a growing resume of quality games.
It was a victory to boost the spirits of the fans, yet the difficulty of the challenge increases against the Roosters this weekend. But for now, the Canterbury faithful is cock-a-hoop.
Any win is a good win in modern rugby league, yet a dominating performance against an arch enemy is the most satisfying win of all.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 22 St George-Illawarra Dragons 2