Dogs set to snarl all the way to semis By Phil Gould June 27, 2005 Page Tools If I sounded a mini-warning last week about the defending premiers being on their way back into contention for the 2005 NRL crown, then today I am offering you a full-scale alert. Here come the Bulldogs. Their emphatic victory over Manly yesterday looked full of intent to me. The Dogs appear to have recaptured their bite. Seven times this year teams have travelled to Fortress Brookvale to take on the Sea Eagles and on every occasion they have left with nothing to show for their efforts. The Dogs love this sort of challenge. Playing a team undefeated at home and seven points clear of them on the premiership table represents fun for the Bulldogs, rather than something to fear. Yesterday the Dogs strode where others had feared to tread, and in belting the home team they sounded a warning to the rugby league world that they are not about to relinquish their trophy just yet. The most impressive part of the win was that the Sea Eagles were definitely up for the contest and at times played as well as I have seen them play all season. It was a case of Manly, a team looking forward to playing in their first finals series for a long time, up against the Bulldogs, a team that has been there and done it so many times before. They were just too good. Manly began with tremendous energy and every player made it his personal goal to finish over the top of his opponent in every collision. They introduced some new plays, too, and, on a couple of occasions, caught the Bulldogs asleep on the edges of the ruck with intelligent decoy running and slick ball movement. Manly forced the pace in every aspect early on. Half Michael Monaghan was driving the ball deep with kicks that looked as though they had been fired out of a cannon. His teammates supported this with enthusiastic chase and crunching defence. The Bulldogs ran into a strong breeze and at times containing the Manly forwards was like trying to ride a wild bull that had been hit on the rump with a white-hot branding iron. But they refused to panic and took each Manly raid in their stride. They kept their cool and played down the edges of the field with short passes, driving Manly backwards on every play, until five-eighth Braith Anasta injected a clever kicking game of his own. The Dogs played with the patience of a championship team. They allowed Manly to burn themselves out in 10-minute spurts of intense energy, and as soon as they stopped to look for a second wind, the Bulldogs would strike with a score of their own. When the Dogs are at their very best they score tries with their defence. Such an attitude has been missing this season but yesterday two great defensive plays produced tries that took the wind out of Manly. Firstly, Anasta and Andrew Ryan smashed Manly centre Terry Hill, forcing the ball loose. The Dogs swooped to swing it wide to Jamaal Lolesi to score. In the second half, promising young forward Dallas McIlwain did it all himself when his solid tackle forced an error and he sprinted 20 metres to score. Mind you, not all the Bulldogs tries came from brute force. The skill from Anasta to produce Andrew Ryan's try just after half-time took the breath away. It was one of those amazing feats of skill whereby he chipped for himself, gathered after one bounce, summed up the situation before grubber kicking again for Ryan to chase and touch down. Even the Manly fans had to stand and clap. Like crap we did. I booed more Phil! Late in the game the body language was telling. The Dogs were back into their groove and Manly started to play with the panic of a team that had given its best, only to learn it was nowhere near good enough. They started to crumble into a fumbling mess and the Dogs rammed home their superiority. Their last six tackles in the game were brutal. It was like they had rediscovered what made them great in the past. It looked like they didn't want the game to end. Don't fret, Doggies. There's another game on next week. Enjoy your run to the finals. You are back.