THE NRL is set for another chapter in the burgeoning Des Hasler versus Manly story. Hasler’s Canterbury Bulldogs thrashed an out-of sorts Sydney Roosters side at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night to lift the minor premiership.
In a promoters’ dream, the Bulldogs’ 42-10 win means on Friday they’ll clash with reigning premiers Manly, who Hasler guided to last year’s title, at the same venue.
The match-up was confirmed after Saturday evening NRL action, as 11 kilometres away at Liechhardt Oval Melbourne defeated Wests Tigers 26-6. The Victorian-based side needed a Bulldogs loss to come from behind to claim the JJ Giltinan Shield.
Bulldogs Skipper Michael Ennis said the side claiming the minor premiership was a nice accolade.“It’s a pat on the back but not the goal we are after,” hooker Ennis said.
Looking ahead to the match-up against the side he guided to two premierships Hasler noted: “It’s going to be a really tough game. Both sides have had really intense struggles.”
Hasler, 51, was slightly critical of the proposed scheduling of a Friday night timeslot for the 1 v 4 match-up saying “I think Sunday 3 o’clock is fitting… it is what it is.”
However Hasler is looking forward to guiding some of the side’s rookies in the finals. “It will be a great experience for all these younger players,” he said. “It’ll be a first time they have been involved in a semi-final series. Going up against a big-match team like Manly will be a great experience for them as well. They are big match team, they have got plenty of experience. There will be another level again.”
Hasler was content with the Club Championship title, also confirmed on Saturday.
“It’s reflected in the overall effort, the club championship, the three sides, the NRL, the Under 20s and the premier league (NSW Cup) side have managed to be first past the post,” he said.
“When you look at it from that point of view it’s a great club achievement. Now we get down to the pointy end.
“Let’s be honest (the grand final win is the goal.). That was a nice presentation (receiving the JJ Giltanan Shield) but we get on with the job now.”
Getting on with the job was what the minor premiers-elect did early when they opened up with tries to Josh Morris (after 45 seconds) and Josh Jackson in the 12th minute.
After benefiting from a penalty, the Roosters’ Tautau Moga scored his seventh try of the season in the 19th minute. Much of the credit for the try must go to second-rower Aidan Guerra who produced a no-look pass to find the rookie centre.
Following a sustained period of possession, including two penalties and a goal-line drop out, the Roosters Anthony Minichiello scored after Morris failed to clean up a Mitchell Pearce grubber.
The eastern suburbs club continued to pressure the Bulldogs on attack. However the Bulldogs regained the ascendancy with a Frank Pritchard try in the 33rd minute for an 18-10 halftime score.
Pritchard was to the fore again as he latched onto a James Graham pass early in the second half. Pritchard burst through a gap on halfway with the play ending with a try to Kris Keating.
Two Josh Reynolds kicks set-up the Bulldogs’ next two scoring plays. In the 54th minute, Barba grounded a Reynolds chip within centre metres on the dead-ball line.
In the 67th minute Krisnan Inu tapped back a Reynolds kick and Jackson scored his second try for the night.
Gulgong native Jackson rounded out his night when Barba supplied a ball from dummy half for the rookie to crash over the whitewash.
Late in the match Roosters fullback Minichiello was placed on report for a high tackle on Barba.
Roosters coach Brian Smith was brutal in his assessment after the loss. “The Dogs comprehensively beat us in most departments tonight,” he said. “It’s a bit tough to pick on anybody in particular.”
“As a club we have got a truckload of work to do for 2013.”
Departing skipper Anasta noted a leg injury in the warm-up hampered him throughout the game, his last before joining Wests Tigers. “Disappointed, you know, with the result….,” he said.
“It was a bit of a nightmare for me tonight, I hurt my leg in the warm-up so I had to get juiced up (with painkillers) at half-time. I couldn’t play my best which I was probably most frustrated about been my last game. Just sad to leave. It was always going to come to an end. I would have liked to have finished on a better note. Unfortunately that’s the way it goes.”
CANTERBURY 42 (J Jackson 3 B Barba K Keating J Morris F Pritchard tries K Inu 7 goals) bt SYDNEY ROOSTERS 10 (A Minichiello T Moga tries B Anasta goal) at ANZ Stadium. Referees: G Badger/J Maxwell. Crowd: 23,391.