Canterbury fullback Ben Barba’s NRL development under new Bulldogs coach Des Hasler was there for all to see when he produced a miracle try-saving tackle on burly Gold Coast prop Luke Bailey on Sunday.
Barba had a brilliant all-round game to help the Bulldogs to a 30-20 win over the Titans at Skilled Park.
But it was his defensive effort and not his outstanding attacking performance which included a try and setting up a 105-metre four-pointer that pleased Barba most.
“I’d rather save more tries than I score,” said Barba who’s taken on board advice from Hasler to work harder on his tackling.
“Defence is a big part of this game … defence wins you games.”
With around six minutes remaining Bailey looked certain to score when he charged to the line, only for the diminutive Barba to somehow get underneath the 107kg prop and hold him up.
Had Bailey been awarded a try it would have cut the margin to 30-26.
Barba also credited his ever improving game to watching Melbourne fullback Billy Slater in action.
“If I can watch one game every week it’s Melbourne obviously,” he said.
“He (Slater) is the best player in the game and he just happens to be a fullback.
“I don’t know if he knows players are trying to emulate him but I just try and watch everything he does and then try and work my butt off to be everywhere like he is.”
It seems to be working for the richly gifted Barba who displayed skills Slater would be proud of.
Late in the first half he fielded a well-placed Scott Prince grubber, seemingly trapped in goal with nowhere to go.
Teammates yelled for him to “get low” and dive back into the field of play.
But instead, he went on the attack, leaving two Titans defenders grasping and then deceiving fullback William Zillman before off-loading to teammate Josh Morris to complete a 105m try.