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Forward domination key to Bulldogs' special brand of success

Dog off the leash: Josh Reynolds streaks away from Dragons defenders during Sunday's match.

Dog off the leash: Josh Reynolds streaks away from Dragons defenders during Sunday's match. Photo: Getty Images

It might not be the perfect formula. It certainly is not the prettiest method of play. However, the Canterbury Bulldogs have a style they can certainly call their own at the moment – and it’s working a treat.

This is  a hard side to beat. The Bulldogs belted the Dragons 38-6 on Sunday afternoon at ANZ Stadium. If that score sounds dominant, rest assured it does not even begin to represent how comfortably the Bulldogs ruthlessly disposed of their opponents. With this victory the boys from Belmore now sit as sole leaders on top of the premiership table. No team in the NRL is more deserving of that position.

The Bulldogs’ brand of football is not flamboyant. However, it is beautiful in its simplicity. There are moments of breathtaking brilliance; but only because the platform of hard work and relentless go-forward has been established.

The strength of their attacking game is their control and their variety. They can advance the ball upfield through a combination of charging runs from their big men, or through the stringing together of short chain passes that simply prevent the opposition from gang-tackling the man in possession and slowing the play-the-ball.

They look like a giant blue wave. Slowly building in size and intensity, they make their way forward, before releasing all their energy and force as they crash upon the beach. The Dragons players might have had more luck trying to hold back the tide than resisting the power running of the Bulldog’s forward pack  on Sunday.

Coach Des Hasler has built his side around size and brute force, but has given  his players areas of skill and plays to utilise, to mix up their game and keep defences guessing.

The Bulldogs start the contest with talented big men in the shape of James Graham, Aiden Tolman and Greg Eastwood. Once these guys have established ownership of the advantage line, Coach wheels in the wreckers. They have four big men on the interchange bench in Sam Kasiano, Tim Browne, David Klemmer and the very promising Dale Finucane, who enter the battle at the appropriate time to run roughshod over an already struggling opposition.

As the old saying goes, ‘‘Forwards win matches, the backs just determine by how far’’.

 Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodgkinson is composed and totally in control. The five-eighth,  Josh Reynolds, is hyperactive, speculative, energetic, aggressive and at times totally out of control. They make a great pairing.

Left centre Josh Morris has the blinding speed and brilliance. In right centre Tim Lafai the Dogs have an emerging powerhouse. The wingers Chase Stanley and Mitch Brown are tradesman who simply do their job. The fullback, Sam Perrett, is the consummate professional.  He has  loads of experience and bucket-loads of courage.

The  centre  of all the action, hooker and dummy half Michael Ennis, wanders around the field executing his role in virtual anonymity. With so many stars around him, his work is hardly noticed. Yet the trained eye identifies it is his professional service and relentless pursuit of excellence that  provide the all-important hub of this attacking wheel.

So dominant were the Bulldogs,  at times you could swear they were going through a training gallop. Never at any time during the contest did the Bulldogs’ defence look in any form of stress. They closed down the Dragons’ attacking game with ridiculous ease.

It would be cheap to say that the Dragons’ attacking game didn’t ask too many questions of the Bulldogs’ defence, but that would be underselling the competency of the Bulldogs’ defensive system.

No, there’s no two ways about it, in both attack and defence  on Sunday, the Bulldogs showed they are setting the standard for all teams to catch in this 2014 NRL season.

The Dragons?  All you can say is ‘‘ouch!’’ They tried hard. I saw no signs of their giving up.  But there is nothing more disconcerting than giving a game your best shot, and then looking up at the scoreboard and seeing you’re down 38-0 with plenty of time left on the clock.

The Dragons just had no answer to the Bulldogs’ power and skill. In attack, they appeared bereft of ideas before the half-time break. Their confidence levels and shoulders sagged in frustration and acceptance that they could not get themselves into the contest.

Their signing of the great Benji Marshall now takes on a new level of importance. If the Dragons are looking for someone with a new bag of attacking tricks they have hopefully found their man. The reality is Benji  will not be able to turn this ship around unless they find a way to dominate the advantage line in attack and defend  it in defence. The Bulldogs gave them a lesson in both.

11 comments

  • This is an awesome article, and not just because I am a Bulldogs fan :P
    Extremely well written and almost poetic to the point I wonder if it really was written by Gould.
    "They look like a giant blue wave. Slowly building in size and intensity, they make their way forward, before releasing all their energy and force as they crash upon the beach. The Dragons players might have had more luck trying to hold back the tide than resisting the power running of the Bulldog’s forward pack on Sunday."
    Among the rest, but can't quote everything.
    One thing missed is the dominance of Josh Jackson but that's just being critical.
    I signed up for SMH for the first time and will definitely be reading more of Gould's articles, whether they be positive about the Dogs or not.

    Commenter
    JayBob
    Date and time
    May 12, 2014, 12:26AM
    • Phil as a lifelong Dragons fan, I agree with everything you said in this article and during the TV commentary. At times during the latter it seemed as though you held back on criticizing those in the Big Red V and your comments about Steve Price looking bewildered were telling. It seems to me that if you can't run through the defense, you have to develop other plans to score points. One consolation try late in a match? Really? Price is surely a dead man walking and his continued tenure is causing untold damage to the brand. I've lost count of the number of times he has referred to the "new" attacking style he has developed at the Dragons or how delighted he is to have the team he finally wants. What nonsense on both counts. Here is the reality Price; so far in 2014 your team has been belted by Souths (twice including the Charity Shield, which result you laughed off), the Roosters and now the Bulldogs.

      Commenter
      Steve
      Location
      Arizona, USA
      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 3:10AM
      • As a lifetime Dragons supporter I am bewildered that Price has lasted so long. He has achieved very little (or nothing) except a downhill slide since he has been in charge. He has passed his use by date and needs to be replaced with someone who knows how to coach. Why on earth is he being retained? He certainly doesn't have the backing of the supporters and it is obvious he doesn't have the confidence of the team.

        Commenter
        hug48
        Date and time
        May 12, 2014, 11:41AM
    • Dogs Of War...slowly but surely the Doggy Forwards are establishing the ruthlessness of the famed brutal Forward Pack of the Doggies going forward and setting up a platform,best is yet to come with Cranky Franky to return.As for the Dragons with/without Benji a Union washout reject nothing will save them from a miserable season except GET A NEW COACH the likes of maybe Nathan Brown,current coach is only good at the TV cameras with lame excuses and he should be held responsible for the Dragons poor performances,players just not responding to coachs methods...so give him the FLICK asap!

      Commenter
      kayc
      Location
      narellan
      Date and time
      May 12, 2014, 8:02AM
      • If I were a bulldog's supporter I'd be pretty concerned. Sitting alone at the top of the table with 14 points, 6 of which have come from 1 point victories.

        Good on them for winning the close games. It's impossible to do well in the competition without winning your fair share, or better, of close games. However, to put the table into context, had the Rabbitohs beaten the Bulldogs, for example, then they would both be at the top of the table with 12 points, with Manly and the Titans alongside them.

        This weekend's results, by the way, show the lopsided nature of the competition. The aggregate game scores are 243 to 85 over 7 games, an average score line of 35-12. A punter's market.

        Commenter
        Roger
        Location
        Surry Hills
        Date and time
        May 12, 2014, 8:58AM
        • Hi Roger,

          Very valid argument. I am a Bulldogs fan and I am very concerned. If we had lost those one pointers against Souths and the Warriors and the Roosters... plus the narrow four pointer against Newcastle, we'd be almost bottom of the table!

          What a deeply worrying season we're having. So may narrow victories, they should hardly count. And with all that, we somehow have the best attacking record (209 for) as well as the best defensive record (112 against) in the competition.

          Yep. Extremely concerned.

          Commenter
          Mutt Sanders' Brother
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          May 12, 2014, 11:01AM
        • Roger, we are concerned...concerned that commentators like Gus will start talking us up haha.
          Seriously though, the mark of a champion team is winning when you are not at your best. Finding a way to win under pressure and outlasting your opposition. It also mentally scars them as they know they let one get away. Not to be too picky here but we did also put 40 on the Storm, nailed the Roosters, (the last 2 champs) win 6 in a row which is tough at any time and got ripped off against the Panthers. We are going all right but it is a long season and when you look at who we have played you really should give credit where due. Smart money this year my friend...Dogs for the comp and you can still get $9 in the right places. Call it an early Christmas gift :)

          Commenter
          Under the Radar
          Location
          Thats classified
          Date and time
          May 12, 2014, 1:52PM
      • It will take more than Benji to rescue the Dragons and it won't be just attack flair that will start winning games for them. It has been shown time and time again that other teams are easily able to dominate the Dragons forwards. Only a couple such as Merrin and Frizell have managed to show any real line-breaking ability.

        Commenter
        stevek
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        May 12, 2014, 9:15AM
        • Benji is indeed a good and timely signing for the Saints. Mayer should settle the signing dispute and get his own wobbling ship back into shape as the Tigers are back to form and racing to the bottom of heap and win the wooden spoon again. Mayer and the Tigers after all didn't want Benji back and one has to ask why he is trying to hog the headlines again instead of focusing on turning his sinking ship around. We want to read about the Tigers, not about Mayer in the news and his obstructionist and distracting shenanigans.

          Commenter
          Akari
          Date and time
          May 12, 2014, 9:22AM
          • Dragons will be a different team with Marshall... a Crouching tiger and hidden dragon.

            Commenter
            Kim
            Date and time
            May 12, 2014, 9:39AM

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            NRL Season 2014

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