Where has this sort of performance has been for Canterbury in recent months? They were too good for a Manly outfit who have now managed back-to-back losses against sides well below them on the ladder. The Bulldogs were more energetic, determined and clinical than their opposition in picking up just their fourth win in the last 15 games. They’ll be hoping to build off this performance and end the season strongly, while the Sea Eagles will prepare for a crucial trip to New Zealand for next week.
1 Bulldogs repay their fans
2017 has not been an enjoyable year for Bulldogs supporters but they had plenty to cheer about against Manly. This is particularly the case in the second half, when they dominated their higher-rated opponents to seal a comfortable victory.
The adjustments made throughout the week paid dividends, as the Bulldogs looked much more fluid and dangerous with ball in hand, scoring a season high of 30 points. If they perform like that next week, then they have a good chance of beating the Titans too.
2 Manly blow another golden opportunity
Following their comeback victory against the second-placed Roosters in round 22, the Sea Eagles would've been confident in the next three games, which all came against sides outside of the top eight.
They let a chance to move into the top four slip last week as the Tigers came from behind to win. With the Dragons and Raiders both losing, they were presented with another chance to solidify their spot in the finals series. But following this performance, they find themselves in eighth position and under pressure which is mostly self-inflicted.
3 Hopoate outshines Trbojevic
When previewing this game, I suggested Will Hopoate would be up for a big game while also his opposite number, Tom Trbojevic, needed a significant improvement. It was the former who came back to haunt his old side, producing three try assists in one of his best displays this year.
He remains without a try himself this season and will be desperate to bag himself a four-pointer in the final weeks. But if performs like he did against Manly then he'll still have a big impact on the scoreboard and his side's fortunes.
4 Canterbury's right edge too hot to handle
The battle between Brenko Lee and Brian Kelly was always going to be key in determining the final result. Lee and Marcelo Montoya definitely got the better of Kelly and Matt Wright. Lee set the tone early, brushing away his opposing centre to set-up a send Montoya break.
All three of Hopoate's assists came from passes to his outside backs on the right edge. Two almost identical cut-out passes provided Montoya with his brace, while a short ball gave Lee enough space to get past Kelly for his try. Kelly ended the game with seven missed tackles as he couldn't compete with Lee throughout the 80 minutes.
5 Manly's defence continues to struggle
Ever since they conceded 92 points across rounds 20 and 21, coach Trent Barrett has got his players working on their basics in defence again. Having kept the Roosters to 18 points, they have now conceded 30 points against both the Tigers and Bulldogs.
Their poor defensive displays in recent weeks have proved costly and if they do not improve, then they may well lose their spot in the top eight before the season closes.
6 Halser breaks Manly hearts again
Des Hasler has been under immense pressure during the second half of the season but he always enjoys playing former club Manly. He has now won 10 of 14 games against the Sea Eagles as Canterbury coach and avenged a big loss from earlier this season to end a four-game rut. His side managed to build pressure, maintain momentum and show some rare attacking flair.
Hasler was forced into some changes with two of his main men, Josh Reynolds and Sam Kasiano, missing from last week's side. The alterations he made to the problematic half-back and hooker positions had the desired effect. His players deserve a lot of credit for outplaying a dangerous Sea Eagles side but some praise should also be given to the under-pressure coach.
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