The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have been torn apart by St George-Illawarra for the second time in 2019, losing 36-12 at ANZ Stadium in the now traditional Queen’s Birthday match.
Sugar coating a result is pointless for any club playing in the cut-throat realities of the NRL and finding a way to soften the disastrous nature of the loss to Paul McGregor’s men on Monday does the Bulldogs no favour whatsoever.
After scoring an early try off the back of a clumsy error by the Dragons in their opening set, everything Canterbury subsequently did was poor. It was an horrific display of error riddled football where all the Dragons had to do was sit tight and wait for mistakes, before pouncing decisively when given the opportunity.
They did exactly that three times in the opening half and set up a comfortable 18-6 lead at the break. The rot was to continue for the Bulldogs as the tries kept coming in the second half and the in-form boot of Zac Lomax continued to pile on the points.
With ten minutes remaining on the clock the Red V had amassed 30 unanswered points, before Kieran Foran scored a late try to save some face for the home side.
In reality it meant little to the Bulldogs; they were completely out played, enthused and executed by the Dragons.
The alarming aspect appeared to be the fact that for the first time in season 2019, the Bulldogs looked flat and disinterested throughout much of the second half. Despite not finding the wins for which their fans had hoped this season, the effort of the team has been solid and consistent throughout.
Against the Dragons, that effort appeared to wane and Ben Hunt, Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell took full advantage despite backing up from mid week Origin.
Nick Meaney bucked the trend for Canterbury with a strong game from the back and 153 run metres. Jeremy Marshall-King played his best game of the season through the middle of the ruck and Foran was relentless in his effort and enthusiasm.
With some consistent footy finally under his belt, Foran looks to be hitting some form. Yet with little attacking support around him, the task is considerable and when Jack Cogger was taken from the field after a serious head knock and deemed unfit to return, Foran was required to play a solo hand.
He had little chance of producing the magic required as the handling errors mounted and the Bulldogs gifted the ball to the Dragons time after time. In the end, it was a grand total of 10 errors and coach Dean Pay, under enough media pressure as it is, was probably ready to launch his fist through the glass window of the coaches’ box in frustration.
There was little to excite the Bulldogs’ fans, in fact, many left in disgust during the second half. The forwards lacked punch through the middle and the backs rarely combined effectively. It was a complete statistical annihilation.
The Dragons controlled the game once they had levelled early in the first half and in the end, lapped the Bulldogs.
The monstrous task of facing a hungry Roosters side next Sunday afternoon now looms.
Based on today’s effort, the blue and whites stand little chance, yet football is indeed a strange game. If Dean Pay and his staff can settle the playing group and refocus, they may come out firing in Round 14.
The problem for the Bulldogs is that they are running out of rounds to re-establish respect and start a rebirth of their reputation. Now sitting entrenched at the bottom of the ladder, something has to change.
For the Bulldogs sake, let’s hope that change is a positive one where the coaching staff and players come together and galvanise for the second half of the season.
Anything else would be counter-productive after another disappointing loss. In reality, there is nothing else the Bulldogs can do besides continue to work hard, stick together and stay the course.
Inherited salary cap issues are slowly being resolved and there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel as new signings are announced; 2021 looks to be the year of renewal.
Let’s hope the loyal fans stick strong through these difficult times. Fiscal mismanagement, poor recruitment and ill-advised decisions have led the club down this path and only patience and persistence will see it rise once again.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 12 St George-Illawarra Dragons 36