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Shannon Meyer reviews ….. Here’s how the game went.

MATCH TIMELINE

Minute Scoring Play Score
5th Try – Lachlan Lewis (Bulldogs) Bulldogs 4-0
6th Goal – Brandon Wakeham (Bulldogs) Bulldogs 6-0
13th Try – Coen Hess (Cowboys) Bulldogs 6-4
18th Try – Scott Drinkwater (Cowboys) Cowboys 8-6
19th Goal – Valentine Holmes (Cowboys) Cowboys 10-6
26th Try – Ben Hampton (Cowboys) Cowboys 14-6
27th Goal – Valentine Holmes (Cowboys) Cowboys 16-6
28th Sin Bin – Dallin Watene-Zelezniak Cowboys 16-6
37th Try – Jason Taumalolo Cowboys 20-6
38th Goal – Valentine Holmes (Cowboys) Cowboys 22-6
45th Try – Renouf To’omaga (Bulldogs) Cowboys 22-10
46th Goal – Brandon Wakeham (Bulldogs) Cowboys 22-12
57th Penalty Goal – Valentine Holmes (Cowboys) Cowboys 24-12
79th Try – Christian Crichton (Bulldogs) Cowboys 24-16

MATCH SUMMARY

1st Half

An eerie atmosphere around the biggest rugby league ground in Australia as the Bulldogs and Cowboys kicked off NRL round two in front of no fans.

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Arguments over whether the game/s should have gone ahead were forgotten about once the action started, and there were surprisingly a decent chance for points for each side early before the Bulldogs scored the opener in the fifth minute after some short, slick passing on a short left side 50 metres out found Meaney in space and Lachlan Lewis backing up.

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A few errors crept into the Bulldogs’ game, and the Cowboys punished them on the second occasion, when Morgan found Coen Hess running the perfect line to open their account. A cheap penalty was equally punished five minutes later when budding superstar Scott Drinkwater made it look too easy from the very next play after a midfield scrum. Another Bulldogs error, another Cowboys try in the 26th minute, as the Bulldogs were punished for wasting a seven-tackle set with a slick left side move from the Cowboys involving both halves and finished by Ben Hampton.

Another Bulldogs error from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak (who didn’t have a very good night) collecting the ball on their first attacking set after the try, was then compounded by giving away a penalty and grabbing a 10 minute stint in the sin bin. For once the Cowboys didn’t punish them. There were more errors from both sides in the final first half minutes, but once again only the Cowboys punished their opponent’s error. Jason Taumalolo, not content with barging up the middle, did a neat wrap around with Francis Molo for the Cowboys’ fourth try. The Bulldogs were lucky to be just 22-6 down at the break.

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2nd Half 

A reverse of the first half theme to start the second forty, as a Cowboys error was punished by the Bulldogs when Renouf To’omaga crashed over close to the line in the 45th minute. If the Bulldogs could hold onto the ball, they looked good enough in attack to trouble the Cowboys.

Sadly they weren’t able to hold onto the ball enough to pressure the Cowboys, as the game fizzled out to a degree, becoming as flat as the atmosphere. Coen Hess had a try disallowed for a double movement in the 60th minute, and an unsuccessful Captain’s Challenge for both sides were the other highlights among a myriad of errors and penalties.

A late consolation try came for the Bulldogs through Christian Crichton, but it wasn’t enough to stop them from losing consecutive games to start the season, while the Cowboys have one win and one loss.

The silver lining for the Bulldogs is that they disappointed fewer fans in the ground this weekend than usual. The signs are ok for the Bulldogs if they reduce the errors, while the Cowboys are looking like a solid top eight team so far.

For stats fans, the Cowboys’ win made it five from five against the Bulldogs on Thursdays.

 

GAME HIGHLIGHT

Jason Taumalolo is a superstar, and turned in another tremendous shift against the Bulldogs on Thursday night. Without going into superlative overdrive, it is great to see a player at the top of their game no matter the side. He has inspired Tonga to the international rugby league top shelf, and is looking good to lead the Cowboys to finals glory later in the season (TBA). One wonders what he could do in the NFL, but for now he is certainly earning his million dollar man status, a measure all future million dollar players should be compared to.

There was a certain interest to watching the game without fans, and it is hard to know whether it was the error-strewn game that made the experience a bit flat, or the lack of ground atmosphere, but it didn’t feel quite right. And you get the feeling that it flowed through to the commentary as well. It is our new reality in the NRL, so I guess we wait to see over this week and the weeks ahead whether you can get used to it, or will fans start to turn off.

On a lighter note, what sounded like fake crowd cheering noise coming through the PA after some of the scoring plays was a delightful trip down memory lane of playing Summer Games or the like on Commodore 64 back in the day.

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SQUADS

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Reimis Smith 4. Will Hopoate 5. Christian Crichton 6. Brandon Wakeham 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Joe Stimson 13. Adam Elliott. Interchange: 14. Dean Britt 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 17. Jake Averillo. 

North Queensland Cowboys

1. Valentine Holmes 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Esan Marsters 5. Ben Hampton 6. Scott Drinkwater 7. Michael Morgan 8. Josh McGuire 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14. Reece Robson 15. John Asiata 16. Mitchell Dunn 17. Francis Molo. 

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