Canberra halt Bulldogs’ NRL win streak
Canberra ended Canterbury’s 12-match winning streak on Friday night with a 34-6 belting to inch the Raiders closer to a NRL finals berth.
Winger Sandor Earl scored three tries, Reece Robinson two and fullback Josh Dugan was on fire for the Raiders, who have sneaked into the eight with the win.
They’ve leaped into seventh spot ahead of Brisbane – who lost to Manly 16-6 – and Wests Tigers, who are yet to play this weekend.
Canberra was desperate for a victory to maintain their place in the finals race and the motivation was evident at Canberra Stadium.
They had the game all but wrapped up by the main break, with two tries to Earl, one to Robinson and another to Mark Nicholls giving them what turned out to be an unassailable 24-6 halftime lead.
Canterbury, on the other hand, who hadn’t lost since May, looked beaten from almost the opening play.
It took until the 24th minute for them to even get close to their attacking line, although Kris Keating – aided by some Ben Barba brilliance – ensured some quick success.
It turned out to be their only score for the night.
On the flipside, Canberra’s 34 points was the most the Bulldogs have had scored against them all season.
Leading by 18 points into the second half, Earl and Robinson added one more each to their personal tallies to put the icing on the cake.
The Raiders’ game plan was simple but effective; they strangled the Bulldogs of time with the ball and applied the pressure to force errors.
After Earl and Robinson’s opening tries, they looked like heading towards a certain 18-0 until Dugan dropped the ball as he flew towards the line.
Nevertheless he still took the honours in the battle of the fullbacks against a well-covered Barba.
There were still flashes of brilliance from the Dally M favourite – he set up the Bulldogs’ lone try with a bit of flash side-stepping to send Keating over.
Earl could have finished with even more tries for the night if not for the video referee and some over-enthusiastic passes in front of a vocal home crowd of 13,150.
Raiders coach David Furner said he took more pleasure out of limiting Canterbury to six points than piling on 34 against them.
“Against a side like the Bulldogs, that’s very good,” he said.
“Our second half there, I thought our defence was very strong and we got to the areas we needed to in attack.
“But we’ve still got one game to go and nothing’s guaranteed.”
Furner added he’s giving his Raiders a bit of a break before heading over to New Zealand to play the Warriors next Sunday.
As for Des Hasler, the Bulldogs coach was circumspect about the loss.
“They had a mountain of possession didn’t they?” he said of the home team.
“We need to do some work on that.”
He noted a “lopsided” penalty count, but said the Bulldogs were guilty of making a series of fundamental errors – something absent from past games.
But Hasler wouldn’t buy into any deeper meaning to the abrupt end of Canterbury’s winning streak.
“Teams these days approach each game in its own entity,” he said.
“They were just better than us today.© AAP 2013