Roosters v Bulldogs: Five Key Points
The Bulldogs moved into the NRL's top four with a tough 24-20 win over the Roosters in Sam Perrett's 250th game.
The Tricolours raced out to an early 12-0 lead before Brett Morris crossed for his fourth and fifth tries in the space of five days to make it three straight wins for the men from Belmore.
Bulldogs sneak into the top four
Thursday night's win made it three straight for the Bulldogs for the first time in 2016 to momentarily put them in the top four.
It's an incredible achievement given how up-and-down the opening two months of the year were for the blue and whites.
Bulldogs skipper James Graham says while it's an achievement, no one at the club is taking their position for granted.
"We're not getting ahead of ourselves," Graham said.
"Before today's game we were only two losses from slipping out of the eight.
"We won't be giving ourselves too much of a pat on the back. We know there's a lot of hard work that lies ahead.
"We'll take confidence from the three wins on the spin. That's going to build a lot of confidence for us. You might as well start practicing doing that now rather than going into it blind in September and October should we be there."
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler described it as an "ugly win", but said he was happy to pick up the two points during the tricky Origin period.
"To get the win here today during this Origin period is crucial; particularly that type of game," Hasler said.
Mitchell the missing 'Pearce' of the puzzle
After missing the first eight games of the season through suspension, and then another three with a calf injury, Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce made his second successful comeback to almost lead his side to an unlikely victory.
Pearce had two try assists and seemed to straighten the Roosters' attack from the outset in a performance that impressed his coach, Trent Robinson.
"That was a big display from 'Pearcey' out there," Robinson said.
"He directed us around with some beautiful kicking early in the game, and then about 60 minutes in, he started to cramp.
"I didn't know whether I was going to have to get him off, and then he eventually gets us back within a try to win the game, but it wasn't to be."
Roosters skipper Jake Friend said the rest of the team needed to follow Pearce's lead if they wanted to return to winning ways.
"He's a competitor and we knew we'd get that from him," Friend said.
"He had some big plays in the game, and I think if a few of us can have some plays like that with him and get on board with Mitch, we'll only get better."
Brett Morris is a professional try scorer
Bulldogs winger Brett Morris continued his incredible return from injury with a double on Thursday night to take his tally to five tries from just two games in 2016.
Morris missed the first four months of the season with a knee injury but hasn't skipped a beat since scoring a hat-trick last Saturday against the Broncos.
The 29-year-old was a threat all night long playing outside his twin brother Josh who assisted both of his tries on the night.
James Graham said Morris's innate ability to find the try line made life easier for the rest of the team.
"He just finds his way to the line, doesn't he? He's done that for over a decade now," Graham said.
"It instils a lot of confidence in our boys, knowing that when we do have those shifts and he's put in those situations, nine times out of 10 he'll come up with the four [points]."
As impressed as he may be, Graham was sceptical when asked about his thoughts on Morris perhaps representing England in the Four Nations at the end of the year.
"I can't envisage it, to tell you the truth."
Latrell Mitchell injury sours an already bitter night
The Roosters' four-point loss was made worse by an injury to fullback Latrell Mitchell, the club's shining light in 2016 with a team-high nine tries in his rookie year.
Robinson admitted he was unsure what was wrong with Mitchell after the Roosters fullback was forced from the field after 65 minutes with a leg injury.
The 19-year-old star of the future was visibly in pain and was helped from the field after earlier scoring a breathtaking try and carrying the ball for 155 metres.
Mbye converts the doubters
The loss of regular goal kicker Kerrod Holland before the game threatened to spell trouble for a Canterbury side that has struggled with the boot since Hazem el Masri left.
But Moses Mbye – who had managed just 11/17 this season – proved the doubters wrong with a perfect 4/4 with the boot to help steer his side to victory.
With the Bulldogs backline looking settled, Mbye will most likely be trusted with the kicking duties for the rest of 2016.
If Thursday night is anything to go by, the Bulldogs are in safe hands…or feet.