Bulldogs v Rabbitohs: Five Key Points
Canterbury came home with a wet sail to down South Sydney 24-9 in their Good Friday clash at ANZ Stadium, with a turbo-charged Josh Reynolds starring for the blue and whites.
Reynolds is what Canterbury is about
There is no question Josh Reynolds was the difference in this game. His whole-hearted competitiveness led to Canterbury winning some of the game's critical turning points – a desperate chase from his own grubber to ground an unlikely try and an even more desperate chase on a try-bound Adam Reynolds were both huge in the context of what was a very tight game for 60-odd minutes.
He remains unsigned for next year, which is a topic that is clearly starting to irk his coach Des Hasler (who retorted about how it only took four questions to get to bring up Reynolds' contract status in the post-game press conference), with the coach still happy to sing the playmaker's praises.
"We're in negotiations with the young man. I said last week it's very positive and things are progressing," was all Hasler would say on the contract talks. But of the try-saver he added: "That's the type of player he is. He's a big part of what we're about. His brand is pretty important because that's how the side plays."
Nervous wait for the Burgess brothers
Bunnies skipper Sam Burgess hobbled from the field after 60 minutes with an ankle injury but returned 10 minutes later to finish the game. His bigger concern for next week may be a first-half shoulder charge.
He wasn't placed on report at the time but the match review committee will still assess the incident.
His brother George may also be in hot water after lashing out late with an elbow on Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman. He also was not placed on report at the time but having already served a two-week suspension for elbowing Newcastle's Mitch Barnett in Round 3 it was a silly play.
Of his ankle, Sam Burgess said: "I rolled my ankle in that, one of the Morris brothers (Josh) tackled me and I rolled my ankle and came out pretty sore and thought I did a bit of damage but it pulled up all right and I managed to get back out there."
Of the elbow, he added: "Obviously with what happened a few weeks ago [against Newcastle] people are going to jump on the back of it but if you have a really good look at it there's not much in it."
Maguire didn’t think the younger Burgess had much to worry about.
"We obviously got the penalty in that position there, I think someone was around his neck, he was just trying to get out of it," Maguire said. "That's why it looked the way it did but we actually got the penalty off that play."
Frawley adds balance
Impressive three-game rookie Matt Frawley is currently unbeaten in the NRL.
He got his chance via a one-game suspension to Moses Mbye but retained a spot on the bench after a match-winning debut. It proved vital having a back on the bench last week when Brad Abbey was concussed early against the Knights.
With no injuries to fill against Souths, Frawley was still injected after 25 minutes; it meant Mbye shifted to hooker and Michael Lichaa was benched for the final 55 minutes of the match.
Frawley's game was less eye-catching than his previous two but he still added vital composure, kicked well and complemented Reynolds brilliantly.
"It just gives us a little bit more versatility," Hasler said.
"Particularly with injury but also the HIA with the head rule now, last year we were having to shuffle players around and it was usually poor old 'Jacko' (Josh Jackson) that was being moved to centre or out to wing."
Rabbitohs rue missed chances
The final score looks like a dominant win to the Bulldogs but the Rabbitohs fluffed three separate try-scoring chances midway through the second half while leading 9-8, each of which could have been crucial.
Robert Jennings took out a defender in the lead-up to Bryson Goodwin's 50th-minute grounding, a runaway Adam Reynolds was brought down inches short of scoring by Josh Reynolds in the 54th minute before Goodwin was held up in the 58th minute after receiving a nice cut-out ball from Cody Walker.
After that trio of three almost-tries in 10 minutes the Bulldogs hit back with three actual tries in 10 minutes, largely on the back of Josh Reynolds taking advantage of some poor left-edge defence from the likes of John Sutton and Jennings.
"We were definitely well and truly in positions to be able to take the game," Maguire said.
"It takes every moment of 80 minutes to make sure you capitalise on opportunities. We unfortunately didn't capitalise and allowed them to stay in the game… whether it's an individual or key moments in games whether it's penalties, all those sorts of things, it's a game that you've got to be live for 80."
Young forward steps up
Last week, Souths back-rower Angus Crichton put in his his first ever 80-minute effort at NRL level.
He backed that up this week with his second and both were highly impressive. Against the Panthers he notched 42 tackles, 107 metres, seven tackle busts and a try assist. Against the Dogs he racked up another four busts, 35 tackles and 135 metres.
The team's previously leaky right edge defence has also looked for sturdier in the two weeks Crichton has been marshalling that flank. His outside man, centre Sifa Talakai, had some defensive issues in the opening round but also looks to have benefitted from Crichton's presence. However his spot may be under threat for next week with Hymel Hunt's four game high-tackle suspension now up.
Hunt's potential return for Talakai (or Jennings) could potentially remedy some of the Rabbitohs' edge issues when they host the Broncos next Friday night.