Canterbury face their biggest test of season 2014 when they play the first placed Manly at ANZ Stadium this Friday night.
Last week, Manly were superb against the Premiers, Sydney Roosters, winning 24-16 at Brookvale Oval. Brett Stewart and Daly Cherry-Evans put on a master class to shut out the visitors in probably the game of the season.
The Manly fullback is in career best form; he’s injury free and is playing with a lot of confidence around his Eagles teammates. Dogs prop Aiden Tolman believes shutting down Stewart is paramount, but it’s definitely no easy task.
“It’s very difficult, but if you try and limit the amount of ball he has, that’s obviously one way of doing it, but sometimes its hard to do that, they’ve got all their players set up around those types of plays.
“For us it’s about limiting those players around him, try not to get too much broken play footy because that’s what he loves. For us it’s all about trying to stay strong in defence and keeping to our structures and hopefully that goes a long way to keeping him quiet,” said Tolman.
The Bulldogs enjoyed the week off with a trip to Kingscliff in what coach Des Hasler described as “a change of scenery”. Coming off a last up win against the Raiders in Canberra, the Dogs will want their momentum to continue, especially without their Origin stars.
“It will be a pretty tough game, even without the State of Origin stars. It will still be a tough night,” said Hasler on Friday night’s match.
The 2-time Premiership winning player and coach even gave his opposition an honest summary, suggesting his former club are one of the benchmarks this year.
“Very good. Very clinical. Given the fact they were probably a little under done, they still performed really well,”
With Josh Morris injured in Origin 1 and Sam Perrett injured against Manly, Canterbury have been forced to change up their backline and it saw some great results against the Raiders
Tim Lafai was enormous, setting up Drury Low for a brace of tries and making 17 tackles without one missed. Low also grabbed two line-breaks and 122 running metres.
Over the first 10 weeks of the competition, the Bulldogs were leading the way in defence, first in the competition in fact. When Origin came around, the Bulldogs were faced with a massive shake up to their squad and were unfortunate to leak 86 points in three games against the Roosters, Manly and Parramatta.
“I think at the start of the season and the middle of the season, we really prided ourselves on defence and I guess that lacked a little in that origin period and a little bit before.
“Something we’ll be looking to get back to, with them scoring less than two tries I think is one of our major KPI’s [Key Performance Indicators] that we’ll be trying to do,” said Bulldogs second rower/lock Dale Finucane.
Manly will be without Daly-Cherry Evans who is unavailable through Origin, as well as Anthony Watmough and Glen Stewart who are still missing through injury.
Jack Littlejohn comes in for DCE and Manly are otherwise un-changed from the side that defeated the Roosters last Friday.
Canterbury are without a host of first grade players including: Sam Perrett, Josh Morris, Chase Stanley, Moses Mbye, Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson, David Klemmer and Frank Pritchard. The Bulldogs will name a similar side to the one that took on Parramatta in Round 14. Aiden Tolman also returns from a hamstring injury that had him sidelined for two weeks.
Josh Jackson moves into the five-eighth position, Michael Ennis to halfback and Brad Cooke comes back into the side at hooker. Dale Finucane moves into a starting role, Lloyd Perrett & Reni Maitua come back into the side, with Pat O’Hanlon named on an extended bench.
The last time they played was only a month ago in Round 13 at Brookvale Oval on a Friday night. The Dogs led early through a try to Mitch Brown in the 17th minute and were winning the arm-wrestle through the middle. It was a wet and muddy night in Manly and Daly Cherry Evans was on fire.
Three quick tries to the Eagles in the 28th, 33rd & 37th minute really hurt the Dogs and they went into half time, trailing 18-6. The second half was closer, and Chase Stanley crossed in the 55th minute but Manly were too strong, going out eventual winners 32-10.
Head to Head
Played 119, Canterbury-Bankstown 51, Manly 63, Drawn 5.
Hasler V Toovey
Played 6, Hasler 3, Toovey 3