The Bulldogs pulled together strongly tonight to polish off the Gold Coast Titans comfortably on the coast; most likely ending the NRL Top 8 Final hopes of the young Titans club.
While without Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley; the Dogs looked strong from early on and always looked like running away with the match. The Titans did well to stop the score from blowing out even further; as the Bulldogs were in a try scoring mood and switched the ball from left to right in damaging fashion.
Luke Patten was at his flawless best tonight; rock solid in his sweeper role and injecting well in attack – the General getting a double for his efforts. Sonny Bill Williams as he so often does, stepped up in the absence of the big names for the Bulldogs and was brutal in his defence throughout the game. SBW looked mean and eager; throwing his shoulder around with devastating effect. If only Sonny Bill could play at this level when the Bulldogs are full strength – they would be unstoppable.
SBW’s efforts were paying off for his team mates. As Williams attracted 3 and sometimes 4 players to stop him; Reni Maitua began running off SBW’s hip and it caused headaches all night for the Titans. This was easily Reni’s best match for some time and his form progression is good timing as the Dogs near the finals.
Hazem El Masri is back to his best with the boot, kicking 6 from 6 and gaining much needed confidence with his conversions after some forgettable weeks for the master.
The difference in the Bulldogs side this week was their ball control. They were prepared to build pressure and get repeat sets rather than force the issue in attack; something Brent Sherwin has been guilty of lately. Tonight they got it all right.
The Titans scrambled for much of the match; Luke Bailey and Nathan Friend both standouts. Bailey actually getting over the try line twice – in a rare double for the big man. Friend was tireless with 41 tackles, yet still was lively in attack. The Titans probably played a little too flat in attack – making it easy for the Dogs to get up an in, shutting plays down early.
Preston Campbell remains a shadow of his former self. The little fullback was cautious on most runs and didn’t look comfortable at times. The return of Chris Walker didn’t have a massive affect, Walker getting limited chances tonight – a little rusty from his time away from the top level, but valuable minutes on the field helped his cause.
The power of the penalty was again proved tonight; on two occasions when the Titans still had a sniff of coming back – they conceded a penalty and the Bulldogs scored from both the following sets.
With such a poor for and against record; it looks like tonight may have been the end of the Titans finals charge. The Bulldogs will breathe a little easier to get some more points in the bank, moving up safely into the Top 8.