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Burton barges down Blues door as Bulldogs blitz sends Tigers spiralling

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19th June, 2022
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Canterbury Bulldogs have won their first back-to-back games for the first time since August 2019 in style with a 36-12 blitz over the Wests Tigers at CommBank Stadium.

Matt Burton was again excellent, causing Daine Laurie no end of problems with his kicking and providing crucial interventions in attack on his last audition before Brad Fittler picked him for the NSW Blues.

Josh Addo-Carr was unlucky not to also get called into Origin camp as he was superb with ball in hand, although he was responsible for an early Tigers try.

After upsetting Parramatta last Monday in Homebush, the Bulldogs knew they had to back up the upsurge in performances that has been seen since Mick Potter took over in May.

His first game was against the Tigers at Leichhardt Oval, and the Dogs were comfortably second best on that occasion. Since, however, they have improved so rapidly it was absolutely no surprise they eased to victory.

The Dogs had averaged 10 points a game for the first 10 rounds: since then, they have scored 22, 24, 18, 30 and now 36. Canterbury haven’t scored more than 30 two weeks in a row since 2016.

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“I’m really happy for them to have that many points in a couple of games, it’s great for everyone,” said Potter.

“We’re still right down the bottom and we’re not getting carried away with ourselves. Winning solves a lot of problems. It makes everyone at the club feel really good.

“In a couple of weeks, we have to back up and do it all again with another tough challenge. At the moment, it’s a great feeling.”

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Burton was excellent, as was Jake Averillo – barely a first-grader under previous coach Trent Barrett but now looking reborn as a fullback.

Kyle Flanagan had his best game of the year and suddenly looked like a confident, dominating half, orchestrating the attack and generating patient pressure that enabled a late blowout.

“Playing that arm wrestle, where you keep the other team down the other end, is crucial in the game,” said Potter. “The more you do that, the more residual effect it’ll have later on.

“One of the good things we did early was push them back down the other end of the field and consequently, at the back end of the game, we had a bit more energy.”

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The Tigers didn’t offer much resistance. Having copped a hefty defeat to Manly last time out, they went even worse today. It was meek stuff.  

The first half, in particular, was pitiful and interim coach Brett Kimmorley would have been overjoyed to go to the break just a converted try behind.

They had been totally dominated: the Dogs had enjoyed 64% of possession, worth nearly twice as many tackles and five sets within the red zone.

Jake Averillo. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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Wests lost Alex Twal in the first minute to a head knock and Starford To’a to a nasty looking ankle injury and were a comfortable second best throughout. Their only bright spot was the return of Adam Doueihi, who made his first appearance since Round 23 of 2021.

“We need to stay united,” said Kimmorley. “It’s a difficult time for the club at the moment. We gave them eight penalties and 12 errors, we gave them 20 sets and had 40% of the ball.

“We tried hard but in this competition, trying doesn’t allow you to be good enough. Everyone tries. It’s about trying to get a weight of possession back to 50/50.

“We didn’t concede a try through structure or their good stuff, we conceded tries through weight of possession and quick play the balls.

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“We have plenty to work on, because points come off the back of possession and them getting into your end, so we have to become a good defensive team.

“That’s the starting point. Everyone tries to do that, and we have to get better at it.”

After an opening period in which both sides traded errors, the Dogs began to exert themselves and Jeremy Marshall-King was able to burrow over.

Both these teams have soft underbellies, however, and the Dogs’ began to show.

Addo-Carr, who needed to be at his best with an Origin team set to be named, lost his bearings under a Luke Brooks kick. David Nofoaluma caught it, and still had plenty to do, but held off several tacklers to dot the ball down.

Having allowed Marshall-King in from dummy half at close range, the Tigers conceded another without a pass required: Averillo spotted Joe Ofahengaue sprinting out of the line ahead of the ball, opening up a clear route to the line.

The breaks continued, with Corey Allan catching a kick in his own end, but with nobody in front of him.

He could have pinned the ears back and aimed at the corner, but decided to take the tackle. It was sensible and nearly paid off, with Jacob Kiraz able to go close again soon after.  

Burton had been causing the Tigers nightmares all day with his kicking, and started the second half in red hot form. He sent up a spiral bomb that Laurie was nowhere near, followed by a crossfield kick that Kiraz caught.

He was tackled when he landed, but smuggled the ball out on the deck – just, just above it – to get it to the feet of Averillo, who hacked on and caught up just before the ball went dead to extend the lead.

The floodgates were opening. Flanagan looped a pass out to Allan and with the Tigers backline shot, he found Kiraz on the inside for a well-deserved try.

Next in was Kurtis Morrin, the debutant, who saw Addo-Carr crabbing across the line and picked the perfect moment to straighten his line and crash through a hole. As he ran to the line, he was already saluting the fans in the corner.

The same could be said for Aaron Schoupp: he caught a Jackson Hastings pass on his own line and raced the length, outpacing even Addo-Carr to keep the party going.

The Dogs ended the game with 12 – Paul Vaughan binned for a professional foul – and with the man advantage, James Tamou was able to grab a consolation try.

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