Bulldogs v Titans: Five Key Points

They did manage to come up with a 21-20 victory in golden point over the Titans but the Bulldogs are still struggling to close out games.

Yet with the rep season not far away several of their players are stating to push for higher honours at the right time.

Bulldogs struggle to close it out

Even coach Des Hasler considered his Bulldogs very lucky on Saturday. 

Up 14-8 at half-time the Bulldogs only just edged out the Titans – exactly one week after they led by the same margin at the break against the Warriors before crumbling to defeat in the second half.

Tries to Gold Coast duo David Mead and Josh Hoffman in the final 17 minutes sent the game into extra time. While Josh Reynolds's field goal was the difference, Hasler was under no illusions about his team's recent struggles.

"The conditions made it hard enough but we certainly made it harder on ourselves. I said to the boys at half-time I feel like we were three sides out there: the Titans playing us, us playing the Titans and we were bashing ourselves up a couple of times," he said.

"We didn't manage it as good as we should have at 20-8. You go on with the game from there and that's what we need to get better at. We didn't close the game out last week and we very nearly paid a heavy penalty for not closing the game out this week. 

"That's something we have to be mindful of and something we can't let happen again. Our lapses are totally self-inflicted."

Ashley Taylor's absence felt by Titans

Nothing against his replacement Cameron Cullen but Ash Taylor's absence was felt against the Bulldogs.

Illness rubbed Taylor out of the match and left the Titans to field their fourth halves combination in as many weeks, with his short kicking game severely missed in the club's fourth-straight loss.

In saying that Cullen was no slouch, setting up one try and kicking a 40/20. 

Titans coach Neil Henry refused to use Taylor's absence as an excuse.

"I don't want to take anything away from Cullo. It wasn't the difference. Ash has got a good short kicking game, you're right, and we might've got a couple of repeat sets. But we had our opportunities," Henry said.

"We're still slow to get out of the blocks in our first halves. That's frustrating. But I think we showed some real dominance at times with our forwards in the middle against a quality team. 

"The boys can hold their heads up high with that performance but at the end of the day we haven't got two competition points."

Bulldogs hooking rotation makes an impact

It was hardly a rotation but Craig Garvey's six-minute stint in the final stages of the game almost stole the show.

Garvey could've even stolen the headlines in the two minutes he got in regular time if things went his way after a huge long-winding run to get the Bulldogs into field goal territory in the 79th minute. 

While Moses Mbye couldn't steal the chocolates right there and then, Garvey's small stint was another example of how dangerous utility players can be in the era of eight interchanges. 

He even provided the pass in the 84th minute for Josh Reynolds' match-winning field goal. 

Titans should consider backline reshuffle…

… and no player has to be dropped. Here me out.

On his day David Mead is the Titans' most dangerous player. But only if he has the No.1 jumper on his back. Mead has filled in there for almost the entire season with co-captain Will Zillman out injured and was a shining light in their positive start to the year.

Zillman's return at the back has dulled Mead's impact severely. Zillman's two errors while under pressure against the Bulldogs surely means he'd be of better service in the centres.

Shift Nene Macdonald onto Mead's wing and you'd think the Titans would be way more explosive in terms of their back five.

Origin hopefuls lift

Three Joshes and a Bird wouldn't look out of place for New South Wales.

Josh Jackson probably played his best game of the season so far for the Bulldogs. His try, 101 metres and 46 tackles did his Origin chances no harm as we inch closer to the representative season.

Josh Morris sent a timely reminder too to selectors that he's still a weapon in the centres while Reynolds's two try assists and field goal only helped his chances. 

Bird is the Titans' most influential player and was missed greatly by the Blues in 2015. His influence against the Bulldogs was no better examined when he returned to the field midway through the second half after a head knock test and laid on Mead's try with his first touch.

This article first appeared on NRL.com