Benji Marshall might not be the only change to a battered St George Illawarra line-up after Steve Price threatened to wield the axe, labelling his team’s 32-point loss to Canterbury as “soft”.
Price unloaded on his players after watching them concede seven tries to one in a 38-6 thumping at ANZ Stadium. The Dragons coach was critical of his team’s inability to match the bigger Canterbury forward pack, who seemed to offload at will, finishing with 19 offloads to seven. The Dragons also missed 13 more tackles as Canterbury skipped to a 22-0 lead at half-time.
“It was a very soft performance,” Price said. “There is no excuse, that was soft.
“[I am] being brutally honest. I’m not a bloke to mince my words. I know we are much better than that. We haven’t been like that all year. We know we were a much better football team than today.
“Our reserve grade is up near the top of the table. I’ll look at that video and make some calls [on possible changes].
“We started the season really well. We had a couple of inconsistent performances after that. I’d like to think it’s a one-off thing.”
The Dragons were boosted by Marshall’s signature on Friday but it will be left to Price to decide if less than a week of training is enough for Marshall to be rushed back to the NRL before his first training session with his new teammates on Tuesday. St George Illawarra play Parramatta on Saturday.
The victory was Canterbury’s sixth in a row and has them leap to outright first on the competition ladder, while St George Illawarra have won just one of their past six games.
Josh Reynolds did his Origin chances little harm after another busy performance by the Canterbury five-eighth. He topped off a polished 80 minutes when he raced away to score a 90-metre intercept try late in the second half as the Dragons fans swarmed the exits of the Olympic stadium. However, Reynolds' performance was overshadowed by forwards, again led by James Graham, Aiden Tolman, Greg Eastwood and Tony Williams.
Canterbury coach Des Hasler wanted more from his players in the second half.
“The first 40 [minutes] we were pretty pleased with,” Hasler said. “We probably lost our way a little bit at the back end. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We have to get the through the rep period.”
The Bulldogs scored two tries in the opening 10 minutes before centre Tim Lafai celebrated a genuine hat-trick, crossing for Canterbury’s next three tries. His first came in the 25th minute and he had another two within the next 20.
St George Illawarra avoided total capitulation when Brett Morris scored off a Gareth Widdop kick in the 78th minute.
Hasler said he expected to lose at least a handful of players to NSW duties.
“There are a couple incumbents in Josh Morris and Josh Reynolds,” Hasler said “There are probably a few amongst them who would be in that smoky category. I’m not going to name them because that could only jinx them.”
The only concern for the Bulldogs was for prop Tolman who limped from the field with an ankle injury midway through the second half, while halfback Trent Hodkinson was placed on report.
BULLDOGS 38 (T Lafai 3, G Eastwood, S Perrett, J Reynolds, T Williams tries; T Hodkinson 5 goals) bt ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA 6 (B Morris try; G Widdop goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referees: Gavin Badger, Grant Atkins. Crowd: 21,077.