The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have slumped to their tenth loss for the season in an 18-16 defeat to the Dragons at ANZ Stadium.
Once again the blue and whites were in the wrestle for much of the contest yet lacked the class and precision in attack to convert pressure into points.
It has been the common theme over the last few years and the patience of the Bulldogs’ faithful is being tested to its fullest extent. The most admirable thing that can be said right now is that Dean Pay has the full support of the squad and the team has given a full effort each and every week despite the circumstances.
The real issue for the Dogs lies in the quality of the squad available to them. The halves lack direction and versatility, the back line looks bereft of ideas and the forwards grind well, yet lack skill, vision and execution.
Individually this plays out in the harsh reality that Matt Frawley and Jeremy Marshall-King need a few more years under their belts before being serious first-graders and Aaron Woods continues to eat up much of the salary cap whilst providing little impact on the field.
Will Hopoate and Marcelo Montoya have suffered defensively all year and offer little in attack and Kieran Foran (despite not playing today) has not proven the success many thought he would be.
With the Morris brothers, Aiden Tolman and Moses Mbye all seemingly on the way out, the short term future appears to be based on further rebuild and question marks must be hovering over much of the squad.
Generally, I attempt to be positive in my match reports and have bitten my tongue for much of the year, yet the laziness around the ruck displayed by Woods that led to the Dragons first try was just another example of a B Grade player being paid an A Grade wage thanks to the foolishness of the previous regime.
If in any doubt, watch him in isolation whilst at the ground and observe the minimal impact he has. It will scare you to Tony Williams’ proportions. Some might throw stats in his defence, however impact is far more crucial and errors and penalties negate a few good runs. The twitter comments around his gum-chewing tonight only mystify me more.
The scariest thing about this loss to the traditional rival was just how mediocre the Dragons were. Despite a quick start on the back of penalties that saw Aitken and Sims claim tries, the Bulldogs began to grind their way into the game and an Adam Elliott try after 18 minutes brought the Dogs within two.
A 14-6 half-time lead on the back of a late Nene Macdonald try saw the Dragons in the box seat. It was the last try they would score and four pointers to Will Hopoate and Brett Morris after the break put the Bulldogs in front for the first time at 16-14.
Late in the game, as controversial decisions and Woods’ stupidity infuriated the crowd, Gareth Widdop slotted two penalty goals to reclaim the lead to the tune of 18-16.
With one last desperate attempt at victory and seconds remaining, the Bulldogs packed a scrum with David Klemmer at five-eighth, as if to confirm the fact that their attacking prowess is minimal. It was infuriating to watch. Almost as infuriating as the refereeing and the poor song selection at the ground during breaks in play.
As the game ended, I caught the sight of James Graham passionately celebrating the victory and couldn’t help but wonder what the Bulldogs had given up to gain so little.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 St George-Illawarra Dragons 18
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