The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will look to bounce-back this Saturday night against the undefeated Melbourne Storm.
After going down in the final seconds of Round 3 to Penrith, the Dogs head to Perth where they will look for their second win of the season.
In a scorching day at the foot of the mountains last Saturday, the Panthers dominated the first half against the Dogs, but to the Bulldogs credit, they only led 10-6 at the break. The conditions didn’t help but captain Michael Ennis wouldn’t put it down to the hot weather.
“Both sides had to play in it, they probably just handled it better. It was definitely humid out there but that’s what happens at this time of year. As Des said, they just beat us to the punch in the ruck,” said Ennis.
A courageous display of football in the second half nearly stole the match for the blue and white, leading 16-12 with one minute remaining. Josh Reynolds was outstanding for the Dogs, adding two try assists and two line break assists to his season tally of 5 and 5 from three games.
Even after a great second half that nearly saw the Bulldogs race into the Top 4, coach Des Hasler described the match as “frustrating”.
“We had no field position, no possession, added to our tale of woe with some pretty fundamental errors,” said Hasler.
The mighty Bulldogs pack was down on overall metre’s gained last week and will need front row twins Aiden Tolman and James Graham to step up if they’re to run through Melbourne’s defence.
Graham ranks 2nd in the league for hit-ups with 45, averaging 153m per game. Tolman is next, ranked 3rd in the league for hit-ups with 44, averaging 143m per game.
Tolman lines up against his old club, where he played 3 seasons for the Storm (2008-2010) and is confident that the Dogs have the structures in place to win.
“It’s not really our structure and game plan that needs to be fixed, it’s just the way we execute it. In terms of errors, penalties, those sorts of things make it very hard some times so that’s what we need to fix up this week,” said Tolman.
Melbourne continued their strong start to the season, defeating Newcastle 28-20 on Monday night. The storm were lucky in the first two rounds of the season, beating Manly 23-20 in Round 1 before narrowly beating Penrith 18-17 in the second round.
The 4 time premiers (2 were stripped due to salary cap breaches) have a short, four-day turnaround, and the Bulldogs will look to capitalise on their tough start to the season.
World Cup wining halfback for Australia and reigning Dally M Medal winner Cooper Cronk was named Man Of The Match last Monday against the Knights. Cronk was superb; kicking nine times for 230 metres, with two try assists. All of this after off-season shoulder surgery.
Mitch Brown (knee) and Chase Stanley (cork) were late withdrawals on Saturday against Penrith, replaced by Tim Lafai and Drury Low who successfully returned from hand injuries.
Chase Stanley returns to the Bulldogs side this Saturday after he missed the tight loss to Penrith last weekend. Stanley has scored two tries in two games this season and will return on the wing after he suffered a minor cork injury.
The last time these two teams met was in Round 18 last year, the Bulldogs triumphing 39-0. Head to head they’ve played 32 times, Canterbury winning 16, Melbourne winning 16 as well. The Storm has the recent advantage, winning six of their last nine meetings.