ROUND 5: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v. Sydney Roosters (Bankwest Stadium, 15/6/20)

The Roosters were coming off a historic win over the Broncos and had James Tedesco on the park, so the sky was the limit when they met the struggling Bulldogs at Bankwest for an impromptu bout of Monday night football. They’d been slated to play the previous afternoon but a COVID-19 scare for Aiden Tolman had postponed the match, giving Sydney City one more rest day to recuperate their epic form against Brisbane the previous Friday. It had been ten days, but they started just where they left off, getting six again on their first set, and then the first penalty – a dangerous tackle from Dylan Napa – before Luke Keary and James Tedesco combined to put Angus Crichton across in the right corner. Four tackles into the restart, the Bulldogs got their first touch of the footy when Jake Friend lost it out of dummy half, but the two pointscorers converged on Lachlan Lewis on the next tackle, forcing him to spill the Steeden in turn.For a moment, it looked like Nick Meaney might score an intercept try after he inserted himself into a cut-out pass from Keary to Joseph Manu, but instead he gave them six again, and the platform for their next four points.

Kyle Flanagan was the first player to regather the football, offloading it to Manu, who sped up the right edge and flicked it back inside to Brett Morris. B-Moz made an even more spectacular flick pass, carrying the ball deep into the defensive line, and then lobbing it like a frisbee back to Flanagan, who put down six points with the kick included. The Tricolours didn’t show any signs of slowing down on the restart, as Tedesco took the ball to the line on the fourth, and Will Hopoate knocked on the high ball to Victor Radley, giving Sydney City another six plays. Raymond Faitala-Mariner leaked the next penalty two tackles in, for a grapple on Sio Siua Taukeiaho, and there was nothing to stop the Roosters scoring except themselves, so it was a big letoff for the Dogs when Radley was pinged for being offside in the defensive line. Canterbury got their first big burst of field position when Radley was put on report for a late shot on Lewis – the first real moment of ill discipline from the Roosters – as the Bulldogs’ big men stepped up for a symmetrical sequence of runs on the Sydney City line: Faitala-Mariner, Napa, Sauaso Sue, and then Napa and Faitala-Mariner once again.

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Lewis ended with a rushed kick to the right side of the field, where Hoppa regathered the ball, and Kieran Foran helped bring it back inside, but knocked it on in the process. The Roosters got a set restart, and Flanagan ended with a dangerous grubber that utterly defied Meaney, who reached out several times to gather it on the right edge, under pressure from a hard kick chase from B-Moz. Crichton put down a double a tackle later, off a terrific run from Tedesco – his first big play of the night – who danced across the ruck, got on the outside of Lewis, and made a one-handed offload in front of Jake Averillo for one of the most effortless try assists of the year. Once again Flanagan added the extras to put the Roosters three tries ahead, while things got worse for the Dogs when they wasted their Captain’s Challenge trying to contest a loose carry from Dallin Watene Zelezniak. The Chooks almost scored out of the mid-field scrum, as Tedesco tipped on to Daniel Tupou, who drew in five Canterbury defenders to hold him up on the left, but this time the Dogs survived, as Crichton coughed up a potential try assist from Keary on the second play.

The Bulldogs got their best chance so far when the second quarter arrived, thanks to a bad kick from Keary, a late tackle from Radley, six again after Josh Morris touched the ball, and then another restart when Manu was called offside. Boyd Cordner made a terrific tackle on Napa, Renouf To’omaga spun through Radley and Cordner in the middle of the park, and Adam Elliott headed left, offloading back to Faitala-Mariner, who was cleaned up to the left of the posts. Despite some big efforts from the forwards, Canterbury couldn’t really make headway here – not even after Jeremy Marshall-King and Lewis moved the play right with a pair of sweeping passes out to Foran, before Lewis kicked back to the left, where the Roosters cleaned up the play. This was pretty clinical from Sydney City, although their tryscoring was starting to decelerate after the splendid surge of the first fifteen minutes. If the Dogs could score one or two tries here they would definitely be back in the game, but instead Sitili Tupouniua broke through the line with his first touch of the footy, and sent Teddy across beneath the uprights for the Chooks’ fourth try.

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This was a great take from Tupouniua, who secured the Steeden against his neck while breaking past Faitala-Mariner, and then got away from Elliott. Conversely, the defence was pretty poor from Hopoate, who planted himself squarely in Tupouniua’s path with no real effort to contend with Tedesco’s run. Sydney City had defended their line for three sets in a row, and then gone 100 metres to score, without seeming to break a sweat, achieving a 24-point lead once Flanagan made it 4/4. Three minutes out from the break, the Bulldogs almost fought back, as Foran dummied and swerved around Keary, laying the platform for a rapid right sweep that ended with Hoppa putting the Steeden on Stephen Crichton’s chest. For a moment, it looked like Crichton had achieved the impossible, staying in the air longer than any winger I’ve seen this year – so long that his body was perpendicular to the sideline when he put down the football, using Tupou as leverage to keep himself off the ground. Just as Foran had showed a single run can lift a team, so this single try could have changed the Dogs’ rhythm, but the Bunker showed Crichton’s foot had just brushed the sideline.

The contest between the two wingers continued on the last play, when Crichton was tackled in the air by Tupou in goal, setting the stage for a more regular rhythm in the second stanza, as the Roosters’ tryscoring decelerated further. Still, their defence was impeccable, as evinced in three intercept plays ten minutes in that eventually dismantled a big Bulldogs push. The first came from Tedesco, who made a try-saving knock-on when Averillo collected the high ball from Hoppoa, got on the inside of Flanagan, and tried to shift the footy back to Lewis. The second came from Brett Morris, who disrupted a compressed harbour bridge ball from Hoppa to the outside edge, and the last came from Tupou, who knocked the next kick back, and finally won possession again for Sydney City, who got a set restart a tackle later. Despite this defence, however, the Tricolours started to lose momentum in attack over the next ten minutes, until B-Moz collected an offload from Tedesco and broke through the line, storming from the right edge over to the left wing, where he heard his brother barking out for the footy on his inside, only to flick it back to Stephen Crichton instead.

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Despite this error, the Roosters had achieved their best momentum of the second stanza, and scored immediately out of the scrum, off their simplest play so far – a catch-and-pass from Tedesco to Brett Morris, and then an offload from Morris back to Tedesco on the right edge. Flanagan added another kick, and the Chooks were thirty ahead, almost scoring again when Crichton only bounced a Flanagan ball at the back of the in goal area, where he was edged out by a superb kick chase from Josh Jackson. Galvanised by this shift in rhythm, the Dogs now combined for one of their most elegant tries of the year, starting with a beautiful triangle of passes – a short ball from Foran to Jackson, and then a pop-back from Jackson to Hoppa, who caught the footy on the side of his head, gathered it in his arms, and curved up around Tedesco to send it back to Foran on his inside. Meaney added the extras to put six points on the board, but Tedesco responded with the one true one-man effort of the night, continuing to simplify the Roosters’ play with a disarmingly direct effort – collecting the footy ten metres out, bouncing off the right boot, and sliding past Faitala-Mariner for another four.

Ever reliable, Flanagan added the extras, and so the Roosters were six times the Bulldogs at 36-6 when the final five minutes of the match arrived. They came together with one final team try – the perfect counterpoint to Tedesco’s solo effort, although Teddy was still arguably the key playmaker here, receiving the footy after a terrific crossfield run out of dummy half with Morris, and grappling with Meaney for about five seconds before managing the offload. From there, the ball changed hands about six or seven times, including a strong run from Radley up the middle of the park, before Flanagan kicked to the left edge, where Brett Morris curved around for the last try of the night. With Flanagan booting the two points through the posts, the Roosters had scored a century in their last two games against Canterbury, so they’ll be looking to make it 150 when they take on the Titans next week at Suncorp. On the other side of the Steeden, this was a pretty dispiriting game for the Dogs – despite that one spectacular try – so Canterbury will be keen to dig deep into their playbook when they rock up to meet Cronulla for the final match of Round 6.

About Billy Stevenson (751 Articles)
Massive NRL fan, passionate Wests Tigers supporter with a soft spot for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and a big follower of US sports as well.

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