Bulldogs v Sea Eagles: Five Key Points
Two sides struck by injury and suspension, one coming off two straight losses and the other off four straight losses, and plenty of playmakers under pressure.
Here are five talking points from Canterbury's 28-16 win over Manly at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
Hot (and cold) streaks continue
When you're hot you're hot. And Bulldogs winger Curtis Rona is currently hot. He scored from the second play of the game with his first touch of the ball, and added another in the second half. He'll certainly score tougher tries in his career but the brace has him on eight tries in seven games, currently atop the NRL leaderboard. Titans centre James Roberts, second with seven, could yet surpass him this weekend but it's a grand start to the season from the ex-Cowboy.
On the flip side of that coin, nothing seems to be going right for Manly at the moment. Rona's first-touch try was only possible because veteran prop Willie Mason spilled the game's first hit-up, giving the Bulldogs a free leg-up to open the scoring – the last thing his side needed.
"I don't want to sugar coat it but it was a terrible start to the game. We dropped the ball off the kick-off. I think it was 10-nil after eight minutes. It was quite traumatic in the coaches box as you'd imagine," a dejected Geoff Toovey said after the game.
Reynolds comes good, Hodkinson a work in progress
With no shortage of speculation over State of Origin spots – mostly in the NSW playmaking roles – already at this early stage of the season, the incumbents could do themselves a favour by showing some strong form heading into rep season.
Since coming back from a broken arm, Josh Reynolds has started two games from the bench and last week was probably guilty of trying too hard, while Hodkinson has been panned – notably by one of the great NSW halfbacks in Andrew Johns – for not taking the game against Souths by the scruff of the neck when it was there to be won.
Tonight Reynolds came good in fine style. His floating cut-out from his side's first use of the ball put Rona over, his dangerous right-side run and pass helped create space for Chase Stanley to score on the opposite flank shortly after, and he threw the last pass for Rona's second at the end of a good set piece in the second half. He was busy and looked dangerous with each of his 11 runs.
Hodkinson, however, ran the ball just four times, and had little impact in attack. He didn't cause too many headaches with his general play kicking and the usually reliable radar was off with the conversions too, landing just two goals from six shots. He did handle in the lead-up to Rona's second and scooped up the loose ball that eventually led to Mbye's try, while a chip to the in-goal almost handed Rona an easy four-pointer but sailed slightly too deep.