The Bulldogs upset South Sydney 14-6 on Saturday night, as their late season resurgence continues.
South Sydney and Canterbury played out a tryless first half, and the Desmond (Tutu) scoreline was a fitting result for the first 40 minutes, as most of the occasional promising attacks were hurt by regular errors and penalties. You felt the longer it stayed a low scoring contest, the more likely the Bulldogs were going to win the arm wrestle.
The game opened up a little more in the second half, and the Bulldogs gradually got on top as the second 40 minutes played out, on the back of some great performances by Kieran Foran, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Corey Harawira-Naera.
Two of those three players were involved in the Bulldogs’ first two tries. They responded to a 45th minute Souths penalty which saw the home side take the lead after the break.
The first Bulldogs’ try was scored in the 47th minute by Harawira-Naera, who chased hardest after a perfect grubber from Foran which could be described as deft.
Both players combined again eight minutes later after Lachlan Lewis got them both into a great position in attack in the same area of the Rabbitohs’ defence that allowed the previous try. Foran threw the last pass to Harawira-Naera who ran a great line to score.
Souths tried hard enough after that to narrow the gap, but just lacked quality and any spark in attack, and their most promising attacks ended in a drop ball.
The Bulldogs kicked a late penalty goal to put the final nail in the Rabbitohs’ coffin. Souths have now lost three games in a row, and just won just three times since round twelve.
Canterbury climbed up to 13th on the NRL ladder, and are now just two points from Newcastle in 9th. A finals appearance is out of the question, but it is certainly building nicely for next season.
Foran Lively in Return
Kieran Foran returned to the Bulldogs, and the argument of why he is playing this late in the season was firmly put to bed with a great first up performance.
He produced a perfect deft grubber for the Bulldogs’ first try, and threw the last pass for Corey Harawira-Naera’s second try not long after. Foran took charge from there, with perfect last play kicking options keeping the Bulldogs on top after they hit the front halfway through the second half.
Foran is looking more like Thoros of Myr from Game of Thrones every time you see him, and much like the fictional character, he produced his footballing version of the flaming sword a few times in the game, with promise for more. Just a pity it is too late for the Bulldogs in 2019.
Souths a Fading Finals Force
On a night where the Canberra Raiders opened up the minor premiership race with a stunning win against the odds and stats in Melbourne, the Rabbitohs underwhelmed massively. They dropped out of the top four, with sixth-placed Parramatta are not far from overtaking them.
As has been a theme in the second half of the season, there was not enough imagination in attack, and way too many errors to cause the Bulldogs – genuine wooden spoon contenders before their recent run of wins – too many concerns.
Liam Knight’s knock on with six minutes to go, on the first hit up after winning a penalty ten metres from their opposition line, sums up the performance. They had enough ball and territory, but average execution.
Injuries and suspensions haven’t helped the Rabbitohs either, and Braidon Burns suffered another hamstring injury in his first game back from a break for a similar reason. You would think that he will be out for most of the season now. And Sam Burgess looked like he aggravated a previous injury as well late in the game. With Tom Burgess’ head knock – that may require time off – the Rabbitohs are starting to look a little thin.
Cody Walker’s Post-Origin Blues
Cody Walker has been one of rugby league’s great stories of the last few seasons; his rise to the NRL as an older rookie should have given inspiration for players who think they have missed their chance.
Sadly, it’s been downhill his Blues Origin debut in game one this year.
Where he was Souths’ best attacking weapon, and among the competition’s leading try scorers earlier in the season, he is now a shadow of the player that almost single-handedly won the game for the Rabbitohs on the Sunshine Coast (against the Warriors in round five) with four tries.
Nothing is quite working for him at the moment, and as a result the Rabbitohs aren’t winning games. Hopefully it will turn around soon, lest he becomes another player ruined by a one-off Origin appearance for NSW.
Tom Burgess Should Have Left the Field
Normally a headline saying that a Burgess brother should have been sent off the field would mean some kind of foul play. Not this time.
The incident in question was caused by Tom Burgess copping a head knock attempting to tackle Bulldogs hard man Dylan Napa in the second half. He got up like a boxer who has taken a barrage of punches to the head, his legs wobbling like jelly.
Burgess did not immediately leave the field, finishing his defensive duties for the Rabbitohs for that set after the Souths trainer appeared to give the initial OK. Doctors on the sidelines said otherwise.
The referee did very well to halt the game straight after the incident, but Henry Perenara should have the power to send the player off if he deemed the knock serious enough to stop play immediately. Perhaps NRL match officials should be allowed to step in as a neutral with only the player’s welfare at heart. It could open up a Pandora’s Box about the referee’s involvement in the game, but the player’s welfare should be the priority given the problems later in life thanks to sporting concussions.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 6
Goals: Adam Reynolds 3/3
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 14
Tries: Corey Harawira-Naera 2
Goals: Nick Meaney 3/3
South Sydney Rabbitohs: 1. Adam Doueihi 2. Dane Gagai 3. James Roberts 4. Braidon Burns 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Sam Burgess 9. Damien Cook 14. Thomas Burgess 11. Ethan Lowe 12. Jaydn Su’a 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 10. Liam Knight 15. John Sutton 16. Dean Britt 17. Tevita Tatola.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs: 1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Kerrod Holland 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 20. Kieran Foran 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 14. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Corey Harawira-Naera 21. Adam Elliott. Interchange: 6. Jack Cogger 13. Chris Smith 15. Renouf To’omaga 17. Raymond Faitala-Mariner.