Bulldogs manager Trent Barrett believes under-fire half-back Kyle Flanagan will “gain a lot of confidence” from his performance in Canterbury’s 32-12 loss to Penrith on Sunday.
Prior to the game, the Bulldogs had come under intense scrutiny from some media personalities because Flanagan, who was kicked out of the team last season, was named to return against the best team in the league, with suggestions the move was a ‘disgrace’ from a club which ‘humiliated’ the 23-year-old.
While it was a difficult night for all players in the Canterbury squad on Sunday, Flanagan produced a memorable moment when a high ball proved too much for Penrith’s Jarome Luai, who dropped a routine catch that led to the Bulldogs’ first down.
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Barrett hailed Flanagan’s return and said his team’s struggles against the Panthers weren’t down to the playmaker’s performance.
“I thought he was really good,” Barrett said.
“I thought the chances and the opportunities we had there on their try line, we seemed organised.
“He will gain a lot of confidence from this.
“He’ll probably say he wasn’t, but he probably wouldn’t have been so happy with the attention he got.
“I think he handled the situation very well. I think he did well.
“Our problems were at the back of the pitch, rather than at the other end.”
Flanagan also found support from his opposite halfback, Panthers No.7 Nathan Cleary.
“I think he did a really good job,” Cleary said.
“It’s hard when the media is constantly watched…but the more you block it out and focus on what you need to do, that’s the most important thing.
“I thought he was pretty solid and doing what he was supposed to do.”
The Panthers maintained their undefeated start to the season in their fifth round.
The reigning Premiers kicked off the game with back-to-back tries in the opening 15 minutes, before factoring in the Bulldogs with ease for the rest of the game.
The Bulldogs, now sitting on a five-round win, found a way to cut an early deficit, but their efforts were short-lived.
After Canterbury reduced the deficit to eight points in the 32nd minute, it took Penrith just five minutes to extend their lead to three tries.
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A 72% success rate, along with 16 errors, left the Bulldogs with few offensive opportunities.
It was very difficult for fullback Matt Dufty, who struggled under the high ball and finished the game with four errors to his name.
The win keeps the Panthers atop the NRL ladder.
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