The Bulldogs head north for NRL Magic Round, hoping to secure their third win of the season against the 16th placed Newcastle Knights on Friday evening (6pm).
Whilst the Round 9 trip south to the nation’s capital was one full of promise, it was an inability to convert pressure to points that saw the blue and whites fall to Ricky Stuart’s Raiders, in what was a tough encounter. A lone try to Matt Burton was the sole reward against a committed and disciplined Canberra defence and Canterbury coach, Trent Barrett, will continue his efforts to draw more precision from his back line in the lead up to Magic Round.
Statistically, the Bulldogs were never really in the game against Canberra and actually did incredibly well to remain a chance to snatch the two points for as long as they did. Barrett will have drawn much attention to the 69 per cent completion rate, the 42 per cent of total possession earned and the 14 errors that combined to put the team under too much pressure. If not for yet another high tackle efficiency percentage, the margin could well have been greater.
Match: Bulldogs v Knights
Round 10 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
A cleaning up of those statistical areas against the struggling Knights this Friday, could allow the attacking structures to bear fruit, with some promising signs obvious in the Round 8 triumph over the Roosters. Ensuring an even share of possession is vital and ball control and discipline will once again be crucial to the potential securing of two competition points.
The Knights have been in a world of pain in recent weeks, conceding 125 points across their last three matches and barely finding the try line. That defensive weakness could well provide Barrett with a clear barometer as to precisely where Canterbury’s new attacking combinations are at, as we approach the half-way point of the season.
Kyle Flanagan and Matt Burton had been developing as a duo in the halves, with this fixture presenting a real opportunity to quickly get things back on track, while Matt Dufty and Josh Addo-Carr will be key to any Bulldogs success, providing pace and try scoring potential in the back line.
Barrett has name an unchanged line-up, backing the players who would have been disappointed with the discipline and ball control displayed last Friday. Both sides will feel that the two points are there for the taking. Canterbury need to ensure they are the team that controls the middle third more consistently than their opposition and the one able to create pressure when the ball is shifted wide.
Kyle Flanagan vs Adam Clune
In a match were points seem likely despite the threat of rain in the Brisbane area on Friday, Adam Clune returns for the Knights and his battle with Kyle Flanagan at the scrum base could be key.
Flanagan had been building into the season nicely, and should he be able to exert influence on the edges, with his efficient short passing game and make astute attacking decisions, Clune may well feel the pressure.