The Kurri Kurri Bulldogs partied loud and proud after demolishing Maitland Pickers 40-4 in a one-sided affair at Kurri’s home ground The Graveyard on Saturday.
The Bulldogs victory song reverberated around the ground as the shell-shocked Pickers tried to come to terms with the loss and a growing injury list with forward Rob Mason and centre George O’Brien hospitalised with a sternum and elbow injury respectively.
However, the damage was well and truly done before the Pickers’ bench was stripped bare and coach Trevor Ott said the Bulldogs were the best performed team his side had faced so far this season.
Both teams have been plagued by error-ridden starts, but while Maitland’s ball-handling woes continued the Bulldogs stuck to a pre-game mantra of “ball retention and completing sets”.
“I’m just happy for them, because I know how hard they’ve worked,” Bulldogs coach Ron Griffiths said after the game.
“There’s still a long way to go, but to put a comprehensive score on like they did today after a tough few weeks is a true sign of character.”
Griffiths said he knew his side was united in their desire to win after a first-half incident when wing Mark Walker chased a Maitland player, who had made a break down the left side, and tackled him into touch.
“Our want was shown with every single player coming across and give Mark a wrap for what he did,” Griffiths said.
Walker was one of many stars for the Bulldogs on Saturday, with halfback Tyrone Walsh, five-eighth Ryan Walsh and fullback Jarom Haines creating headaches for the Pickers and making them look slow.
Experienced duo Tyme Dow-Nikau and captain Terence Seu Seu, who returned to his familiar role at hooker, were the stand outs.
“I think our backs have been pretty solid. Coming out of our end they really put their hands up and supported our forwards. They were all good, but I thought our six, seven and one working together well, really helped off the back of Terence.
“Ryan Walsh has a fantastic boot on him and he has a sense of when to kick and that came through with the two 40-20s. The placement of his kicks was very good, our chase got on board and worked for his kicks.
“I thought the fullback was very good and he had support around him telling him he had time.
“Terence was very good. He just knows how to bring the forwards onto the ball. One big thing with Terence, even though we have been playing him in the halves, we thought he’d been leading by example with his runs and his defence.
“Moving him a little closer today he made a couple of really good one-on-one tackles where he made made the other guy feel uncomfortable.
“Tyme had his best game of the year. His desire to get over everyone he played against today was fantastic.
The key to victory, however, was the Bulldogs’ ability to maintain possession and defend mistakes to save energy for attack.
“Last week we turned it over six times in the first half, this time it might have been two or three but we were able to defend our mistakes. We didn’t allow them have multiple sets in a row which helps,” Griffiths said.
Pickers coach Ott said his side had no answers to the Bulldogs and were blown off the park.
“We struggled to start well again, that’s four games in a row where we have been poor in the first half,” he said.
“I thought their young halves were outstanding today, the pace of the game they played with was outstanding. We looked slow and couldn’t execute any plays.
“We finished the game with 11 men, we ran out of interchanges well before the last 10 minutes. But we weren’t in it well and truly before then.”
Jacob Sinclair, Dane Tilse, Jayden Butterfield and Tyler Carter were the Pickers’ best.