Bulldogs v Wests Tigers: Five Key Points
The Bulldogs recovered from a slow start to defeat a courageous, yet understrength, Wests Tigers 32-22 at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
The Tigers had their chances to pull away in the second half but were left to rue a couple of missed opportunities, while Brett Morris added to his phenomenal try-scoring streak with a double.
Slow starts hurting the Dogs
The Bulldogs might be on a four-game winning streak, but their coach believes there is still plenty of room for improvement.
One of the biggest areas Des Hasler identified was Canterbury's slow starts to games.
During their recent unbeaten run, the Bulldogs have allowed the first try in all four games, and that trend continued on Saturday night against Wests Tigers.
Hasler said that once his side got into the grind, they were able to wrestle back control, but it's clear he'd rather not have to watch his team chasing points.
"We were probably guilty of our demise early," Hasler said after the game.
"That's two weeks in a row now where we've let sides get out to a flyer.
"I thought they (the Tigers) played with great enthusiasm, there was plenty of speed and plenty of punch with what they were doing. We had to wear that, and once we got a bit of possession, we were able to put on some points and get back in the game."
Tigers let down by simple errors
Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor says his team had their chances to win on Saturday night, but were ultimately let down by an error-riddled second stanza.
The Tigers were a perfect 15 from 15 in first-half completions but managed just 10 from 16 after the break.
The black and golds raced out of the blocks in each half but were run down at the backend both times to eventually fall by 10 points.
No doubt the biggest turning point in the game came six minutes after half-time when Jordan Rankin failed to gather a Tim Simona kick with the try line in sight. Had he held onto the ball, the Tigers would have gone ahead by 12 points after debutant Jacob Liddle had scored only moments ago.
Taylor refused to blame Rankin's missed opportunity for the loss, but admitted it might have rattled the players' confidence.
"Our ball control in the second half was what let us down," Taylor said.
"We hardly made an error in the first half and we knew we were going to have to do that against this sort of opposition. We did a really good job of that in the first half but fell away in the second half.
"Those things can be hard to overcome.
"I haven't spoken to the guys about it in detail, but when you know you should be six more points on the scoreboard, and there's still 30-odd minutes to go in the game, it can be hard mentally to overcome that and get past it."
'Dogzilla' changed the game
From the moment Sam Kasiano got onto the field, momentum swung Canterbury's way.
Down by 10, the bearded big man's entry changed the complexion of the contest, with Kasiano setting up two tries in the space of three minutes to give his team the lead.
The first was a fortuitous bit of play that saw him collect a loose ball, dummy and then pass to Josh Morris who linked up with his twin, before Kasiano delivered a perfectly-time offload to send Josh Reynolds on his way to set up Will Hopoate under the posts.
Kasiano finished the game with 137 metres, three offloads, two tackle breaks and a line-break assist, and regularly attracted three or four defenders in every tackle.
Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman said it was par for the course in terms of what Kasiano could do.
"When he came on he had some big carries and he's been doing that the last month. That's what he has to do for the team; that's his role, that's his job," Tolman told NRL.com.
"He's been really putting us on the front foot when he comes on. I thought our bench tonight – and over the last month – has been outstanding."
Hasler echoed his prop's sentiments, paying special tribute to fellow bench behemoth Tony Williams.
"Sam is capable of that…he's big enough, isn't he?" Hasler said.
"I thought Tony Williams also provided some great momentum for us and helped us gain some good field position."
Taylor says loss of players not to blame
Most people had tipped a huge Bulldogs win given star Wests Tigers trio James Tedesco, Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods were away on State of Origin duty.
But despite missing the prized triumvirate, Taylor said his side still could have won the game.
Instead, Taylor highlighted the Bulldogs' superior kicking game as one of the cornerstones to their success
"I don't think that was a factor for us tonight," he said when asked about their absence.
"There's no doubt that 'Teddy' adds something to us that nobody can add to any footy team, but that game was there for us to be won.
"We had balls just rolling dead and they had balls sitting up in the corner a metre from the try line or a metre from the touch line that we had to play at and get pushed into touch."
Nothing minor about Morris' exploits
Brett Morris continued his unprecedented run of form since returning from injury with another two-try haul to take his tally to seven from just three games this season.
In truth, he could have scored at least another two tries but was twice denied by Kevin Naiqama and the bunker.
Such is his current form that only three Bulldogs players (Curtis Rona, Will Hopoate and Sam Perrett) have scored more tries than him in 2016, and they've each played many more matches.
Had he been fit and played every game this year, there is every chance he could easily be on 20 tries already and a clear favourite for the competition's leading finisher come the end of the season.
He was expected to shift back to fullback once he regained his match fitness, but given how well he's playing out wide, coupled with Hopoate's success at the back, Des Hasler might be forced to stick with the current set up.