Dogs bounce back from adversity again
Beware the dog.
No side handles adversity quite like the Bulldogs and they proved that once again in their 16-2 win in the Queen's Birthday clash against the Dragons on Monday.
Coming off a 38-0 loss to the Panthers last week that saw them drop to 14th spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder after 13 rounds, scrutiny on the Bulldogs was at an all-time high as they stared down the barrel of a fifth-straight defeat.
But media speculation is something the proud club thrives on, and while outside noise called for mass changes the players and coaching staff quietly went about their business to mastermind a game plan to slay the Dragons.
Things looked shaky in the first half as they failed to capitalise on a glut of early possession, but despite trailing 2-0 at the break they piled on three unanswered tries in the second stanza to close to within two points of the eighth-placed Panthers.
While his team was scrutinised from pillar to post, Bulldogs skipper James Graham couldn't understand why the same people who had tipped them to struggle in the pre-season were bagging them for their lowly ranking after 13 rounds.
"No one was more annoyed than what was in that playing group and the staff members as well," Graham said of his side's mindset following the Panthers loss.
"There wasn't really that much difference from week to week.
"I think a lot's been hyped up in the press. We've just tried to remain calm. You don't need to be Freud to work out that we weren't happy with how last week went.
"That (Monday's win) is more like us – that's more like the performances that internally we expect.
"From an external point of view, I think most of the pundits at the start of the year would have had us outside the top eight anyway so I don't know why they're complaining about where we are. It's exactly where most people tipped us to be, but internally we know we're better than tonight and we showed signs of that today."
There was one play that epitomised Canterbury's desire to preserve their try line with their left-edge defence coming up trumps to deny Nene Macdonald and Josh Dugan when they looked odds on to score in the first half.
"There was a play – I don't know who was involved – but there was a double try save on Macdonald. He tossed it back in and someone's come up again," Graham said.
"I was on the bench at the time and it was great to watch because it showed that our boys care about what we're trying to do. We were trying to replicate that same energy going into the second half.
"A couple of weeks ago against Cronulla and the Roosters, we found ourselves in a similar position to win the games but we haven't come away with it. I think we've learnt some lessons from that and we really hammered that home tonight. We learnt from that and we played really smart and came home with the win."
For Bulldogs coach Des Hasler, the win showed all the doubters what his side is capable of when they apply themselves for 80 minutes.
There are still a few areas that need to improve – namely their last-tackle kicking options – but Monday's win takes a lot of pressure off the Bulldogs heading into this week's bye.
"I never really doubted the ability of this team. Plenty have, but it was a good win today," Hasler said.
"I just think that we were a little bit tidier in all facets.
"We were disappointed with how we played last week against Penrith. I thought today we were a lot tidier. There is still some improvement [in us]."