Crikey Sports introduces Pat Byrne, project manager and sports fan who, in conjunction with Crikey Sports, will be publishing a weekly column where he thinks outside the square in bringing you the game of the week as he sees it … in a box….

Pat Byrne, blogger and “Game-in-a-box” creator writes:

There were a couple of potentially very interesting facets to this game. The match up between Greg Inglis of the Rabbitohs and Jamal Idris of the Bulldogs. These are two big powerful athletes, but Inglis has the edge in experience in the centres, Idris having moved there this season. But Idris has an “I don’t give a stuff” attitude which just might help him.

The second one is whether the Rabbitohs would have any more “heart” in their game after the shellacking their coach gave them at half time against Roosters last weekend. The last one is the Ryan Tandy betting shemozzle. How would the Bulldogs players handle all the fuss that has been going on around that considering Tandy was sacked this last week? I also read that he was going to sue the Bulldogs for unfair dismissal.

It was all a bit quiet but nonetheless intense for quite some time. The proverbial “arm wrestle”. That wrestle wasn’t broken until the Rabbitohs scored after 20 minutes. And it was a wee bit of Inglis magic that helped it along with a deft little pass inside to an angling Wesser that allowed the Rabbitohs to post first points. It was from there that the tempo started to pick up. After that try, it was the Rabbitohs who had the running but ultimately couldn’t capitalise apart from a penalty goal. Then it swung the Bulldogs way and they DID capitalise with two converted tries.

The first try was Idris getting one over Inglis. Inglis went for the inside man and Idris was able to get well and truly on his outside to go over basically untouched. A few minutes later and the Bulldogs were in again off a bomb. I thought Wesser, the Rabbitohs fullback and one of my favourite players, was going to get there but Goodwin got there first and Wesser seemed to misread it and didn’t even get in his way. But Goodwin did well and didn’t take his eye off the ball despite the pressure. The Bulldogs went in to the half time break at 12 to 8 ahead.

If Bulldogs went into the break on top in terms of dominance, just over 6% for that half overall, they didn’t hold it for after the break. The Rabbitohs came out and scored two quick tries, both to Nathan Merritt the winger. His first was a “benefit of the doubt” try but he did wonders to plant the ball before he or the ball went over the dead ball line. The second was off a Sutton bomb and Crocker found himself catching the ball unopposed. A few passes later and Merritt was over again.

The Rabbitohs were then on top for long periods, although at one stage the Bulldogs got a second set of six as the Rabbitohs touched the ball.  Keating got through a weak Wesser tackle and scored. Wesser can sometimes be that enigma. Over the years I have seen him pull off miraculous tackles and score fabulous tries. But … he just has this habit of occasionally not doing a simple thing and the opposition capitalises.  In this case he went high and Keating ducked and swivelled out of it. I suspect that is why, although his talent was up there, he hardly played Origin.

After this try though, it was 18 all. The Rabbitohs really put it to the Bulldogs and were right on top of them but came away with only one point. A field goal by Sandow. I suspect they thought they were nearly home after that.  It is why I have marked this as a turning point.  The Rabbitohs went one point up and then went off the boil … or the Bulldogs went up a few gears.  The catalyst was most definitely Wesser getting ten minutes in the sin bin at the 70:30 minute mark for holding down in a tackle too long. They could have gone for a penalty goal and been one point ahead themselves, but instead the Bulldogs went for the jugular with a tap. Around one minute later they were in and three points ahead.  They maintained that pressure and possession and finalised the game with a try to “Bobcat” Ryan just short of the bell. They won 28 to 19.

Idris had it over Inglis. Inglis just doesn’t look comfortable in the green and red jersey yet and perhaps isn’t even properly fit. It will probably take a while to get used to the patterns and to the team, sufficient for him to start calling some of the shots himself or for him to inject himself where he sees fit. The Rabbitohs did seem to play with more intensity, so Johnny Lang’s rev up last week might have had an enduring effect. Tandy’s gambling rubbish didn’t seem to have any effect on the Bulldogs, although they did take a while to get into any sort of rhythm.

The winning feature was that the Rabbitohs couldn’t capitalise on their dominance when they had it as the Bulldogs defended well. But perhaps it is also that the combination of Sandow (halfback) and Sutton (five-eighth) just isn’t doing it for them. This seems to be the accepted wisdom among the commentators and I don’t disagree. They have a pretty good roster that includes big Dave Taylor, but just don’t seem to be able to finish it all off and consistently so. This perhaps comes down to the halves combination.

Speaking of Dave Taylor … he is an interesting player. He is more skilled than Ben Creagh of the Dragons, but doesn’t have the same productiveness as Creagh. The same goes for Frank Pritchard of the Bulldogs. Very talented but even less productivity than Taylor, by a long shot. He was missing from this game.

A good game once it got going and the Bulldogs deserved the win five tries to three.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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