Canterbury-Bankstown have slumped to their 7th loss of the season after a 22-10 defeat at the hands of the Newcastle Knights at Suncorp Stadium.
It was far from a magic day for the blue and whites despite the cheesy NRL promotion that was Round 9. In fact, the first 40 minutes were a little painful to watch.
After a controversial week at the selection table and with Canterbury entering the match without Rhyse Martin, Lachlan Lewis and Kerrod Holland on the official team sheet, the fans held their breath waiting to determine whether coach Dean Pay had gone completely mad or was about to be rewarded for his tough yet shrewd re-organisation of the squad.
The jury is potentially still out after the Knights jumped the Dogs early and looked far and away the better side in the first half. Tries in the 7th, 22nd and 40th minutes saw Newcastle head to the break with a 16-0 lead and the need for some soul searching in the Bulldogs’ dressing room.
In true Bulldog spirit, the side did respond. Things improved immediately with Reimis Smith and Will Hopoate crossing the line for tries to pull the deficit back to 16-10 after 58 minutes. Momentum and possession had swung and a levelling of the scores appeared likely.
That momentum came off the back of better ball control and an improved completion rate, after a sloppy opening 40 minutes in those areas. Missed tackles had also hampered the Bulldogs and after the break the centre third was tightened up considerably.
Josh Jackson worked tirelessly for 47 tackles and Dylan Napa produced 185 run metres across 20 runs in what was his best performance as a Bulldog.
There were still issues in attack as Jack Cogger and the returning Kieran Foran struggled to create consistent and clear chances at the line. Aiden Tolman topped the fantasy points yet again in another soldier-like performance and Marcelo Montoya played strongly in the centres after coming into the team for Holland.
With the Bulldogs surging, seeming likely to score and potentially levelling things up, the referees took centre stage, missing a late Knights knock on that aided in the scoring of their final try. It robbed Canterbury of a full set of six deep in attack.
It was a terrible decision and one that ruined a compelling end to the contest. Had the Bulldogs scored, equalised and prevailed in golden point, it may have validated Pay’s selections. Although the paltry nine minutes given to Fa’amanu Brown still had many fans scratching their heads after the game.
It will be interesting to see where the coach heads in terms of next weeks team. Lachlan Lewis would have offered more than Brown from the bench, particularly considering the brief time he spent on the field.
Corey Harawira-Naera will return and the problematic left edge defence looked a little better yet issues still exist.
Next week sees the Bulldogs with a chance to claim their third win of the season when they face the Gold Coast at Cbus Super Stadium. It would be a much needed win to say the least, both for the fans and the squad; with obvious frustration and disappointment lurking in the kennel.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 10 Newcastle Knights 22