Canterbury have eased to a 30-10 NRL victory over an injury-hit Wests Tigers in front of a small crowd at ANZ Stadium.
Canterbury chalked up a second successive win to all but secure their place in the NRL finals but missed a big chance to crank up their for and against with a laboured 30-10 win over the injury-ravaged Wests Tigers.
Thursday night’s loss was the fifth straight for the Tigers at a sparsely populated ANZ Stadium.
The Bulldogs ran in five tries on a heavy pitch in front a tiny crowd of 9877 – another poor endorsement for Thursday night football – four of which came in the opening 30 minutes.
Des Hasler’s side started the game with a -5 point differential – the worst of any team in the top eight – and were hoping to make up some ground against a Tigers side bereft of experience and confidence following thumping defeats to North Queensland and the Sydney Roosters in their past two games.
Tigers coach Mick Potter was unable to select 10 frontline players, with senior prop Keith Galloway ruled out with a shoulder problem before kickoff and back-rowers Sitaleki Akauola and Cory Paterson forced to start the game on the wings.
Josh Jackson enhanced his growing reputation as one of the best young back-rowers in the game with a close-range try for the Bulldogs in the 10th minute.
Winger Corey Thompson dived over six minutes later before centre Tim Lafai bagged a brace of tries following some poor defending from the struggling hosts.
Lafai’s second stemmed from a promising break from Tigers’ duo Mitch Moses and Jy Hitchcox, only for Moses’ attempted offload in front of the posts to fall into the hands of Trent Hodkinson.
From the resulting play, the Bulldogs broke downfield and Lafai put the finishing touches with a smart finish in the right corner.
Trailing 24-0 at the break, the Tigers were vastly improved in the second period and scored two tries to limit the damage.
Young halfback Luke Brooks showed another glimpse of his prodigious talent with a superb try to get the joint-venture on the board 12 minutes after the restart.
The 19-year-old grubber-kicked just in front of his own posts then regathered to sprint 90 metres to score.
But it was to be his last contribution of the game as he limped off with a pulled hamstring.
Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis extended his side’s advantage on 67 minutes, diving over under the posts with Hodkinson kicking his fifth conversion of the game.
But it was the Tigers who had the final word with NSW prop Aaron Woods scoring a deserved try in the final minute with Paterson kicking the extras from in front of the posts.
Hasler admitted his side turned off a bit in the second period with the game effectively won by halftime.
The Bulldogs face South Sydney next Thursday, with Hasler hinting at his players having one eye on that clash.
“It was probably an opportunity to go on with it in the second half, but we executed a bit better in the first half,” he said.
“It was a matter of just staying healthy towards the end and rest a few blokes.
“The disappointing thing though was the 12-point turnaround – we should have scored six tries.”
Tigers coach Mick Potter said Brooks’ injury was likely to be a low-grade tear of his hamstring but bemoaned his lengthy casualty list.
“We’ve deteriorated just before Origin and I think it’s just got worse,” he said.
“We’re in double figures now and that’s unfortunate.
“But we’re giving guys an opportunity and they’re loving it.”