Canterbury weren’t supposed to put up much of a fight against the high-flying Knights, but nobody told the Bulldogs’ players that as they put in a spirited 80-minute performance to continue their winning run.
Just 48 hours after State of Origin Game III, Newcastle were boosted by the inclusion of all four of their Origin players, but if they thought the Bulldogs would be intimidated they had another thing coming. Newcastle started fast out of the blocks, and for the most part of the opening quarter it seemed the Bulldogs were clinging to their lives as the Knights moved the ball around at pace.
But the Bulldogs held on and conceded only one try, in the fourth minute to Shaun Kenny-Dowall – on the end of a sumptuous looping cut-out pass from Mitchell Pearce – that had everyone in the stadium on their feet. But despite having numerous tackles inside the Bulldogs’ 20 metre line, a 6-0 scoreline was all the Knights would take into halftime.
Canterbury would have taken a lot of confidence from their spirited efforts in the first half and came out firing in the second; despite Newcastle edging further ahead with a penalty goal in the 47th minute, the Bulldogs were slowly getting on top. After a misfired kick in the Bulldogs’ red zone Marcelo Montoya gathered the ball and took the Bulldogs deep in Knights’ territory, before Will Hopoate finished off a wide spread, scoring out wide to put the Bulldogs right back into the game.
With the Bulldogs on the attack again, Newcastle forward James Gavet was sent to the sin bin for a late shot on Chris Smith, this gave the Bulldogs a one-man advantage which they made the most of, crossing through backrower Corey Harawira-Naera and winger Remis Smith. By the time Gavet returned the Bulldogs had a 12-point lead, and with only seven minutes to go, the Knights could only muster one more try through Kenny-Dowall as they fell to their second consecutive home loss.
In comparison the Bulldogs claimed back-to-back wins for the first time this season to get themselves off the bottom of the ladder, which will come as a massive relief to under pressure coach Dean Pay.
Gavet Sin Bin
The NRL said they would crack down on tacklers making late hits on players who had already passed the ball, in reaction to the Michael Morgan-Tariq Sims incident two weeks ago. So when Knights enforcer James Gavet ‘jammed’ Chris Smith in the back after he had passed, referee Matt Cecchin had no hesitation in putting Gavet on report and sending him to the bin for ten minutes. This was the turning point, with the scores level the Bulldogs scored 14 unanswered points during that time.
Another Bunker Blunder
It’s hard to understand how week after week – despite all the technology at their disposal – the NRL’s infamous Bunker continues to make mistakes, but yet again fans and commentators were left bewildered when Ashley Klein (who was in the Bunker) was giving his verdict. The Remis Smith try was sent up as a ‘No Try’ by Matt Cecchin and with there being inconclusive evidence on not one but two potential knock-ons by Smith, Klein rightly said there was not enough evidence to overturn the on-field decision, but for some reason he changed his mind and overturned the on-field decision to award a try. The only saving grace was the Bulldogs were clearly the better side on the night and deserved their win, but there is no doubt the Knights should feel hard done by.
Bulldogs Playing for Pay
There’s been talk going back to pretty much the start of the season that Bulldogs coach Dean Pay is on borrowed time, with rumours circulating about player discontent and even links to other potential coaches to replace him. But looking at the results in the past few weeks, and the players’ efforts throughout the season, it’s hard to believe the players aren’t putting in for their coach. In comparison Titans coach Garth Brennan’s head is also apparently on the chopping block, and his players did him no favours putting in another pathetic performance against the Panthers, which looks to have sealed his fate.
Knights in a Hole
They’ve been the feel good story in last few months of the competition since going on a six-game winning run and producing five Origin representatives, but for a club who in recent times have been foreign to both winning runs and dealing with representative duties, they’ve struggled to deal with both. The Knights have now lost three of their last four and have now lost as many games as they’ve won (8-8). To make things worse they face the Roosters next week at the SCG. The Roosters will be looking for a square up after their round 11 encounter (which Newcastle won 38-12).
Newcastle Knights 14
Tries: Shaun Kenny-Dowall 2
Goals: Mason Lino 3/3
Drop Goals: n/a
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 20
Tries: William Hopoate, Corey Harawira-Naera, Reimis Smith
Goals: Nick Meaney 3/3
Drop Goals: n/a
Knights: 1. Connor Watson, 2. Hymel Hunt, 3. Kurt Mann, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Shaun Kenny-Dowall, 6. Mason Lino, 7. Mitchell Pearce, 20. Daniel Saifiti, 9. Danny Levi, 21. Tim Glasby, 11. Jamie Buhrer, 12. Sione Mata’utia, 13. Herman Ese’ese. Interchange: 8. James Gavet, 10. Josh King, 18. Tautau Moga, 19. David Klemmer.
Bulldogs: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 2. Nick Meaney, 3. Marcelo Montoya, 4. Will Hopoate, 5. Reimis Smith, 6. Brandon Wakeham, 7. Jack Cogger, 8. Aiden Tolman, 9. Michael Lichaa, 10. Dylan Napa, 11. Josh Jackson, 12. Corey Harawira-Naera, 13. Chris Smith. Interchange: 14. Adam Elliott, 15. Renouf To’omaga, 17. Sauaso Sue, 19. Jeremy Marshall-King.