The Cowboys shocking start to 2018 continued as the Bulldogs recorded a handy 27-10 victory at 1300SMILES stadium.
The match began with what has become the standard tactic of going for the penalty goal as soon as possible with the Dogs going out to a 4-0 lead on goals in the opening 10 minutes.
Thurston provided the assist for the first try of the match via a falcon, unfortunately for him it was for the Dogs. A kick from Foran rocketed straight into JT’s head. The Dogs regathered and shuffled it along to Marcelo Montoya who crossed in the corner.
Lack of coherency in attack from the Cowboys saw them kept scoreless in the first half as the Dogs added to their tally with a try to Faitala-Mariner and a field goal via Foran. The 2nd half opened up with a try to Adam Elliott with a simple strong run at the line and the Dogs had a 25-0 lead after 50 minutes. The Cowboys scored through Kyle Feldt in the 60th minute and Hampton bagged a try after the siren to make the scoreline read a little less poorly.
Dogs avoid disaster thanks to massive defensive effort
With a 10 minute period of defending with 12 men after Asipeli Fine was sin binned, the Dogs kept the Cowboys at bay in what was the key to their victory on Saturday night. Their defensive pressure resulted in the Cowboys constantly turning over possession with 14 errors for the match.
Coach Dean Pay would have been breathing a sigh of relief that his team managed to avoid a 1-6 start to the season and anchor them to outright 15th. The win still keeps the Dogs in 14th position but just 2 competition points behind the Storm 5th. The inflated margin thanks to penalty goals would also give his side a nice points differential boost which could become important later in the season.
Cowboys way off the mark
The more you know, the less you know. Nobody who knows anything about Rugby League would have had the Cowboys sitting in 15th position after 6 rounds. However it’s a strange game and their current predicament has everyone wondering what’s gone wrong.
The Cowboys attack just could not fire a shot. The fact that they were unable to score while the Dogs had a man in the bin would be worrying, particularly with a healthy share of possession. They even conceded a try in that time frame.
Michael Morgan’s passes on backline shifts hit the grass and on one of his signature sideways runs he got pushed into touch easily. Despite making an effort to give him more ball at first receiver, he was just not delivering the goods like he managed in his stellar run at halfback in 2017.
As has been a prominent media talking point during the week, JT’s performance was heavily scrutinised. He tried hard for little result but it’s hard to do much when his forwards weren’t aiming up for him.
Whatever the case is, suddenly the Cowboys desire to sign Todd Carney doesn’t seem so strange as they are desperately in need of some new spark.
Cowboys lament absence of unfancied players
While the big names are failing to fire it’s also a time where the missing contributions of some of the Cowboys unheralded players that have started to take a noticeable toll.
Kane Linnett has been a Cowboys mainstay for so long that it’s only been in his absence that one can see what value he bought to the team. Averaging close to 100m a game from the backline, they’ve missed his metre-eating that took pressure off the forwards.
Shaun Fensom’s workhorse and never say die attitude was also a key factor in the Cowboys miracle run to the Grand Final last year. His on-field presence may not make a huge impact physically but mentally they might be missing his contributions.
Dogs forwards aim up
The Dogs forward pack had a good night out as David Klemmer ran for a solid 162m while Woods, Faitala-Mariner, Elliott and Fualalo all crossed the 100m mark as well.
Woods in particular had a good performance in what would be a welcome relief for him after copping a large barrage of criticism over the last few weeks. The Cowboys pack was unable to wrap him up, allowing him to get away a couple of offloads which helped keep the Dogs attacking momentum going.
Greg Eastwood also chipped in, delivering his best halfback impression as he provided the perfect short ball for Faitala-Mariner to cross for a try.
WHAT THEY ARE SAYING
“With the way we’re playing, the effort is there it’s just those little things that aren’t happening for us. There’s no easy way out of this at the moment, we just have to knuckle down and go back to training and keep our standards high and hopefully it will turn for us.” – Cowboys fullback Lachlan Coote assessing his team’s form
“We’re just putting ourselves under too much scoreboard pressure at the start of games” – Cowboys coach Paul Green on how his side’s slow starts are costing them by the time they start to post points of their own
“I thought they threw a bit at us, they were parked down our end, particularly in the second half, and I thought that we defended really well. That was probably the most pleasing part of the performance for me.” Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson lauding his side’s defensive efforts
Tries: Marcelo Montoya (18m), Raymond Faitala-Mariner (34m), Adam Elliott (49m)
Goals: Moses Mbye 7/7
Field Goals: Kieran Foran (39m)
Tries: Kyle Feldt (60m), Ben Hampton (80m)
Goals: Johnathan Thurston 1/2