By HARRY CLARKE
THE new generation of Bulldogs A-graders have overcome an early charge from the Western Ringers to reveal themselves as a young team well stocked with match-winning players and willing to lift when the chips are down.
There was an exciting atmosphere at Bulldog Park on Saturday night as players celebrated what ultimately became a convincing win over the Ringers in the third round of 2021.
Earlier that afternoon, game announcer Luke O’Dea summed up a grim situation by saying the hosts were “caught napping” when they let in two converted tries within 10 minutes of kickoff.
Coming off a home ground loss to the Michell Magpies the previous weekend, a 12-0 deficit so early in the game was a sign the Bulldogs might not be turning things around in a hurry.
But in front of hundreds of supporters out to relish perfect football weather, the young team bounced back.
Fullback Brandon Paerau soon dived on a clever grubber from five-eighth Declan Bell to put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard, setting off a try-for-try tussle with the Ringers that went well into the second half.
Imposing Ringers prop James Brennan broke through three tacklers and scored under the posts moments before the half time break.
The try might have damaged the Dogs’ morale, but instead it didn’t appear to faze them.
Defence noticeably improved in the second 40 minutes. Props Dan Nothdurft and Harry Smith, captain/hooker Hayden Bender and lock Matt Eising all racked up a big tackle counts.
Nothdurft also displayed some powerful ball running, replicating his opposite number when he burst through the Ringers’ defence for a four pointer under the posts in the second half.
New to the Roma rugby league competition this year, the Western Ringers team comprises players for the outback towns of Charleville, Quilpie, Cunnamulla and Thargomindah, meaning some players made a 14 hour round bus trip to play in Chinchilla.
And the team’s reserve bench would have been empty were it not for three Chinchilla River Rats rugby union players, Dan Seator, Damian O’Brien and Nick Gordon putting on a blue jumper.
The Bulldogs soon started to capitalise on the Ringers’ fatigue. Bell and halfback Lachie Smith directed some creative football, mounting the pressure on with chips, grubbers and bombs close to the tryline.
The hosts were soon finding plenty of ways through the Ringers’ defensive. Smith darted through for a try of his own to the cheers of supporters in the ‘Dog House’ can bar.
The Bulldogs continued stretching out their lead. The scoreboard read 36-24 come full time.
“We’ve still got a fair bit to work on. They’re a young fella team but there were some good performances today,” said coach Tim Keating, who also praised the efforts by halves Bell and Smith in particular.
TAROOM-WANDOAN BATTLERS CONTINUE RESERVE GRADE DOMINATION
CONTINUING to mount the case that they’ll remain the team to beat this season, the Wandoan Taroom Battlers blitzed the Bulldogs in Reserve-grade.
Dominating across the park in fitness, discipline and consistency, it was hard to pick holes in the Battlers’ performance.
The return of veteran Bulldogs halfback Nick Mutch gave spark to the Bulldogs’ attack, but Mutch was opposed by an equally incisive Bulldogs pivot in Matt Howse (pictured above).
The Battlers went for the legs all afternoon. Any time Chinchilla broke through the defence it seems either fullback Ashley Harth or centre Kyle MacLachlan were there stop them in their tracks.
Down the middle, too, Chinchilla’s big forward pack featuring the likes of Matt Townsend, Ian Exnell and Geln Wicks were continually shut town by tough Battlers tackling, led by dummy-half Blake Ronfeld.
And as the Bulldogs began to tire, the Battlers’ backs seemed to be diving over the try line more and more.
Captain Jayden Baker put the Battlers’ big 32-6 win down to fitness.
“This is the fittest we’ve ever been as a club, so that’s our biggest advantage,” he said.
“We’ve got plenty of young fellas turning up to play. We’ve got plenty of mistake in us, but a lot of strong points as well.
“We don’t really have many big fellas this year, but that’s kind of one of our better attributes – we’re a lot more agile.”