An impressive return from a fractured cheekbone by key playmaker Corey Norman has helped the Dragons snap a five-game losing streak against the last-placed Bulldogs with a 36-12 win at ANZ Stadium on Monday.
Norman was a constant threat in his first game since round eight, linking well with halves partner Ben Hunt who backed up well from his impressive efforts at hooker for Queensland in Origin I with one try and one try assist.
Norman had one try assist and helped create two others, one of which he backed up to score himself, while running the ball strongly and kicking well in his first game in just over a month.
Wins earlier in the weekend for the Panthers and Titans leave the Bulldogs now alone on the bottom rung of the ladder and among the questions for coach Dean Pay is how to address their edge defence, which was tested repeatedly with great success by Hunt and Norman, in particular their brittle left side.
Match: Bulldogs v Dragons
Round 13 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Losing halfback Jack Cogger in the first half due to a head knock didn't help, though his surprise replacement – back-rower Rhyse Martin – proved his versatility with some dangerous touches.
Cogger got up stumbling after being crunched by Tariq Sims as he kicked in the 25th minute and was ruled out for the game after going for an HIA.
The Dogs started brightly enough on the back of an early Tariq Sims error, with Raymond Faitala-Mariner taking advantage of some flimsy goal line defence in just the third minute.
It didn't take the Dragons long to claim the lead however, with Mikaela Ravalawa latching onto a lovely Hunt long ball in the 10th minute before the winger found himself in space after nice passes from Norman and Zac Lomax to streak into space before finding Norman supporting back on the inside for a 12-6 advantage after 15 minutes.
Norman puts Hunt into a hole
The Dragons went further ahead when Norman chimed into a left-side play and winger Jonus Pearson stepped back on the angle to score in the 27th.
The home team were denied what would have been a much-needed four-pointer five minutes before the break when the Bunker found an obstruction in the lead-up to Nick Meaney crossing.
After a scrappy few sets from both sides to start the second half, the Dragons pulled further away when Norman fired a nice ball for Hunt to cross untouched and when lock Jacob Host strolled through the ragged Dogs left edge to kick ahead for Lomax to score in the 60th minute the 16,003 fans started to decide they'd seen enough.
Kieran Foran was Canterbury's best on an otherwise forgettable day and the veteran jagged a consolation try 10 minutes from time before Ravalawa capped arguably his best game at NRL level with a spectacular grounding in the 73rd to ice the win.
Foran gets deserved try