The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have continued their end-of-season renaissance under Mick Potter downing a pedestrian Newcastle Knights side 24-10 in an at times scrappy performance at McDonald Jones Stadium this afternoon.
Both sides came into this match with a point to prove to finish what's been a disappointing 2022. It was the visiting Bulldogs who were the first to enter attacking territory but unfortunately the final pass from Josh Jackson to Josh Addo-Carr was correctly ruled forward by Dave Munro. But unfortunately for the Knights, they were their own worst enemy in the opening exchanges when they failed to complete sets and turned the football over cheap attacking territory.
It was this possession which aided the Bulldogs in setting up their first try and it was a clever blindside play from Jeremy Marshall-King who linked up with Braidon Burns who got a magical pass away to Jacob Kiraz to cross for the first try of the afternoon. If you thought that try was impressive, their second one was even better. Following a Matt Burton bomb, the Fox batted it back to Jackson who offloaded the ball back to JAC who put an inch-perfect kick on the boot for Kiraz to cross for his second try and the Dogs had a 10-point lead.
From there, the Knights were able to work themselves back into the match. They hit back following a questionable short dropout from the Bulldogs, and it was off a big shift to the left and some well-worked passes from Phoenix Crossland and Jake Clifford who worked it onto Simi Sasagi who found Enari Tuala and Newcastle reduced the gap to six points. Three minutes later, the Bulldogs we've come to know under interim coach Mick Potter delivered after Matt Burton put it on the toe for the Fox who linked up with Aaron Schoupp and the Dogs had their third of the first half. A spear tackle from Crossland in the final tackle of the first half saw Burton put over a penalty goal which gave Canterbury a 14 point lead at the half-time break.
Canterbury were on the board first to start the second stanza when Averillo, Schoupp and Kiraz combined to send the young winger away for his first NRL hattrick. This capped off a brilliant game and spectacular rookie season for Kiraz which should be enough to earn selection for Lebanon at the World Cup. Burton's conversion was successful from touch which extended the lead out to 20 points for the visitors. The rest of the second 40 left a lot to be desired as the Knights were dominating possession but failing to get over the try-line with the final plays going astray at critical moments. All this does is increase the pressure on Adam O'Brien as the head coach of the footy side. The Knights eventually gave their 19,813 fans something to cheer about after a clever blindside play saw Dom Young cross a questionable final pass from Milford to reduce the margin to 14. The final 20 was a comedy of errors from both sides, best summed up when Burton kicked for the Fox but he ran into his teammate Schoupp and the movement failed.
Canterbury finished with a well-deserved 14-point victory and the pieces are slowly starting to fall into place for the side and could make life difficult for teams trying to make the eight or assert their position in the finals race. Their challenge gets tougher taking on the Cowboys in the neutral venue of Bundaberg next Sunday. For Newcastle, it's another poor home showing, but they were more resilient in the second stanza which gives them some hope for the end of the season. But they need to start their plans for next season and with Peter Parr's impending arrival tomorrow morning, that planning can't come soon enough. The big question will be whether Parr's plan includes Adam O'Brien. A win next Sunday against the Tigers, could be the difference between whether he stays or goes.