A week after finally awakening their impotent attack, the Bulldogs were at it again in a dominant first half against the Gold Coast. With over 60% of possession, Canterbury ran 500 metres more than their opponents and crossed for four tries as the Titans produced their fifth consecutive scoreless first half.
It’s the same story of the last six weeks. Giving away shitty last tackle penalties and silly errors mean we are just defending our arses off the whole time. We’re just out on our feet. It’s been the same story the last six weeks. We just need to improve.
Titans Captain Nathan Peats – Half Time on Fox League
Nathan Peats’ candour as he left the field at the interval was a rare insight into the frustrations of players at struggling clubs. It was completely understandable too, with his team unable to find a foothold in the contest in the first half.
The second half however was a different matter, with a spirited performance from the Titans meaning they were in a position to steal an unlikely victory with 10 minutes to play. It wasn’t enough as the Bulldogs eventually ran out 26-14 winners, picking up their second away victory of 2017.
1 Lichaa is more than happy to run the ball
It was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald during the week that Canterbury hooker Michael Lichaa was on the look out for another NRL club for 2018. Ironically, given the abuse he has received from Bulldogs fans for not darting from dummy half, The Herald suggested that the move was necessary as Des Hasler was limiting Lichaa's natural running ability.
If rival club's needed a reminder of exactly what the 24-year-old was capable of, they got just that in his game against the Titans. He was a constant menace to the Gold Coast defensive line. The dummy half ran for over 100 metres and played a pivotal role in the tries of Will Hopoate and David Klemmer.
2 Taylor's feet are deadly weapons
After 24 rounds, the Titans were the leading team in the NRL for scoring tries from kicks, while the Bulldogs were the side that had conceded the most tries from this avenue. It was perhaps no surprise then that the Gold Coast's first two scoring efforts were from attacking kicks.
It is fair to say that Ash Taylor's kicking game has become a deadly weapon for the Titans. He created two tries with his trusty right boot. The first was a speculative cross field kick while the second was a deft dab behind the line for Anthony Don. With both tries his try assist tally was increased to 28, with 20 of those coming via his feet.
Late in the first half he came dangerously close to what would have been his most spectacular effort of the day. On a last tackle play, with not much seemingly on, the half-back produced a delicate kick that landed outside a flat-footed Brett Morris with Don poised to swoop. It was a remarkably nuanced play that only came unstuck through the unkind bounce of the ball and the touchline.
3 Klemmer is a beast
David Klemmer is a mountain of a man and he produced a similarly huge first half performance for the Bulldogs. He made 123 metres from 13 runs, scored a try, saw one disallowed and provided a line break assist.
By full time he had accumulated a remarkable 235 metres as the most dominant forward in the clash. His try was a testament to the power and aggression he displayed all game. Taking a short ball from Lichaa, Klemmer hit the line like a steam train and took three defenders with him.
His game will be remembered for his kick-off return in the 16th minute. As the Titans defensive line readied for contact with the rampaging back rower, he noticed Brenko Lee and Marcelo Montoya unmarked. Instead of attempting to run at or through the defensive line, he released Lee with a bullet pass. Lee quickly moved into top gear and the enterprising play saw the Bulldogs advance the ball to within 15 metres of the try line.
4 Sami provides some spark
The end of the season can't come soon enough for the Gold Coast Titans. It has been a testing year where they have used 33 players. One positive from the high turnover of players is the discovery of Phillip Sami.
The 20-year-old's performance in his third NRL game prompted interim coach Terry Matterson to speak glowingly of him in a difficult post match press conference.
"I thought he was a shining light today," said Matterson. "I think he has had three decent performances for them, [we are] trying to find positives and that is certainly one of them."
The young centre provided much needed energy for a Titans team that was badly beaten in the middle of the ground. Taking the ball up with intensity, he was difficult for the Bulldogs to stop as he made 114 metres from 10 carries.
5 Hopoate looks dangerous again
It hasn't been a year to remember for Bulldogs fullback Will Hopoate. Perhaps tellingly though, Canterbury's two best attacking performances have coincided with a return to form for Hopoate.
A man of such attacking ability, it would have surprised many to have learned that he entered the round 25 clash without a try in 2017. After signalling an upturn with three try assists against the Sea Eagles last week, Hopoate finally broke his personal duck against the Titans.
His second soon followed late in the first half too. With a few key additions to the kennel next season, Bulldogs fans will be hoping to see a lot more of Hopoate's try scoring exploits in 2018.
6 Goal kicking isn't as easy as it looks
With the likes of Johnathan Thurston, James Maloney and Nathan Cleary kicking for goal in the NRL, it can be easy to forget how difficult a goal kickers task actually is. This match provided a blunt reminder.
To be fair to Adam Elliott, the responsibility of Canterbury's goal kicking only became his after the omission of at least three other players from the team and the head injury to Moses Mbye. Having taken just two attempts in the NRL prior to this game, it was a nervous-looking Elliott who attempted to convert Klemmer's try from directly in front of the sticks.
Despite the nerves, Elliott steered the ball truly for two more points. The reason for his nerves became apparent with his next two attempts. From positions we have become accustomed to players converting from with ease, Elliott produced two awkward-looking and unsuccessful attempts.
Undeterred by these efforts, he was thrown the ball for a penalty attempt to give Canterbury a 12 point buffer late in the game. His team were rewarded for their confidence with another two points although he did miss another attempt before the final hooter.
Elliott will be more than happy to hand the goal kicking duties back to Mbye, or anybody else who wants them, next week against the Dragons.
What were your highlights from the Bulldogs' second straight win? Let us know in the comments below.
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