Dallin Watene-Zelezniak of the Panthers scores against the Bulldogs.
Dallin Watene-Zelezniak of the Panthers scores against the Bulldogs. DAVID MOIR

Panthers put final nail in Dogs' season

WE'VE known for months that the Bulldogs wouldn't figure in the finals this season and finally it's official, with Des Hasler's impeccable top-eight record at the club ending in ugly fashion.

The Panthers won a game that never hit any heights, with Hasler's side beaten at a game he's perfected in his six-year stint at Belmore.

Of all the clubs that hang their hat on grinding to victory, the Bulldogs have set the benchmark since 2012 but that was exactly how they were beaten, 16-8, by a Panthers side that rarely produced the killer blow they're capable of.

To make the loss even harder to swallow, Sam Kasiano had to be helped from the field, clearly in pain and clutching at his sternum, potentially ending the big prop's Canterbury career.

While Hasler survived a board meeting during the week and may still be at the helm of the Bulldogs next year, cult hero Kasiano, who played a big part in delivering two grand finals, will start a new phase of his career in Melbourne.

It's symbolic of a changing of the guard that will be spearheaded by the arrival of Kieran Foran and Aaron Woods, with the Bulldogs in desperate need of a revamped attack that is run by its playmakers rather than creative forwards like Kasiano.

Since Hasler has arrived at Canterbury he has consistently got his side into the top eight on the back of an unyielding defence that allowed them to win without dazzling in attack.

That is no longer the case and this loss only hammered that point home, with a Penrith side missing star five-eighth Matt Moylan toughing out the two points in a game the Dogs rarely would of lost in the five seasons prior to this one.


Josh Reynolds of the Bulldogs powers through the Panthers defence to score a try.
Josh Reynolds of the Bulldogs powers through the Panthers defence to score a try. DAVID MOIR

While much of the contest was a stalemate, the Panthers turned on the flair in the moment that mattered most, with Dallin Watene-Zelezniak making the most of a freakish flick pass from Waqa Blake to touch down for a try that broke an 8-8 deadlock in the 57th minute and seemed to crush Canterbury's spirit.

Even with 23 minutes still to play and their extremely faint finals hopes on the line, Hasler's men never looked likely to snatch the momentum back and the game was won in the 70th minute when a Will Hopoate mistake handed a try to Panthers centre Tyrone Peachey.

Three minutes before that the Bulldogs' 2017 was summed up in one last-tackle play when they went backwards 25 metres before getting tackled with the ball after both halves, Josh Reynolds and Matt Frawley, took poor options at the end of a listless attacking set.

In that moment the frustration of the fanbase was put into pictures and it's why the harsh glare of the spotlight on coach Hasler will be unrelenting again in the week to follow.


Reagan Campbell-Gillard of the Panthers runs into the Bulldogs defence.
Reagan Campbell-Gillard of the Panthers runs into the Bulldogs defence. DAVID MOIR

While Kasiano was helped off with injury, another departing favourite son, Reynolds, tried his heart out as usual but was unable to inspire his teammates to lift for a much-needed victory.

He had his moments, most notably in the 28th minute, putting on a big left foot step and powering through Penrith's goalline defence to score his side's first try.

The conversion that followed brought Canterbury within two points after an early Peter Wallace try and a Nathan Cleary penalty goal had given the Panthers an 8-0 lead.

By half-time a penalty goal had locked the scores together, giving the Bulldogs a huge lift as they went into the sheds well and truly in a game in which they'd largely been outplayed.

News Corp Australia

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