The Bulldogs’ Josh Morris has shown there are options at fullback besides Ben Barba after his NRL masterclass helped sink Canberra 28-16 at Canberra Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Filling in for the injured Barba for the third week straight, the Test centre ran 176 metres in attack to finish with a try and a hand in winger Sam Perrett’s hat-trick.
With Barba possibly moving north of the Tweed next season, Morris’ performance has provided Bulldogs coach Des Hasler with another option at the back for 2014.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Hasler said.
“They were great offloads at critical times for us. The way he played today you’d think he had been playing fullback for quite a while.”
While the Raiders went into the match without attacking weapons Terry Campese and Blake Ferguson, coach David Furner was left lamenting his side’s shaky defence.
“Feeble. We didn’t get off our line and they got to our edges,” Furner said.
The home side were denied tries three times in the first half by the video referee, the Bulldogs rubbing salt into the wounds by scoring from the following set on each occasion.
“That was the disappointing thing in the first half,” Furner said.
“We should be able to defend against that and we didn’t.”
Raiders centre Jack Wighton kicked off the “no try” rulings with a double movement in the sixth minute, the Bulldogs responding immediately with Morris’ try.
Matters got worse for the Raiders when Wighton, who was playing at centre due to a pre-match leg injury to Ferguson, was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg that will see him out for the season.
Morris then set up a 10-0 lead when he threw a spectacular round-the-corner flick pass to Perrett.
“It definitely was a fluke,” Morris said.
“I had my eyes closed and I thought it went into the in-goal a mile forward. So I was pretty chuffed when that one came off.”
The video referee controversially denied the Raiders for a second time when halfback Sam Williams lost control while placing the ball, and the Bulldogs again made the Raiders pay in the following set through a 27th minute try to winger Mitch Brown.
“I only question that one there where the referee awarded it, and I think they needed grounds to overturn it and I didn’t see any separation,” Furner said.
It was then Raiders fullback Anthony Milford’s turn to knock on above the white line, and again the Bulldogs went the length of the field to put Tim Lafai over for a 20-0 lead.
The Raiders managed to get on the scoreboard on the cusp of halftime through a try to winger Sandor Earl to trail 20-6.
But it was one-way traffic for the Bulldogs straight after the break, Perrett bagging tries number two and three to give his side a lead that would fend off a late Raiders fightback.
The Raiders now need to win their three remaining games to nab a finals berth, while the Bulldogs have all but secured a spot in the final eight and consolidate their position at fifth.