CAPTAIN-coach George Ndaira showed yesterday why he is the player Kurri Kurri have long needed in his side’s 38-10 Newcastle Rugby League victory over Lakes United.
The former St George Illawarra, South Sydney and Knights utility delivered an intelligent display in atrocious conditions at Cahill Oval.
Grubber kicks from the halfback resulted in three of Kurri’s seven tries, and Ndaira scored a four-pointer himself after picking up a midfield knock-on from Lakes five-eighth Luke Johnson and racing to the try line.
In recent seasons the halfback role has been problematic for the Bulldogs and one of the reasons they have failed to progress past fifth spot.
Yesterday’s victory and Macquarie’s 42-16 loss to South Newcastle at Townson Oval on Saturday has allowed the Bulldogs to leapfrog the Scorpions into third position on points differential.
‘‘We didn’t want to get in that situation where you have to win your last few games to make the semis, so we wanted to take that pressure off us,’’ Ndaira said.
‘‘We started the season well to set us up and now we’re just focusing on building.’’
Over the past four rounds the Bulldogs have been inconsistent, losing to Souths and Wyong at home and beating Maitland and Lakes on the road.
‘‘We’ve gone win-loss-win-loss the last few weeks and we were up for Maitland and then down for Souths, so consistency and fighting through those tough periods is what we’re trying to work on, and I thought today was a good stepping stone towards it,’’ Ndaira said yesterday.
Former NRL forwards Adam Peek and Reegan Tanner were last-minute scratchings for Kurri – Ndaira choosing to rest them due to niggling injuries.
The Seagulls, who played in an aqua blue jersey to raise money for prostate cancer, were severely crippled with injuries.
Their handling and execution in the wet was ordinary and their defence illustrated why they are in ninth place with only two wins for the season.
Kurri lock Jay Stevens carved up some weak Seagulls defence to score the first try and then Ndaira grubbered to both corners to produce quick tries for wingers Shannon Tanner and James Charles.
Lakes centre Kye Howarth palmed off Bulldogs five-eighth Mitch Steel to get the home side on the scoreboard, but a schoolboy knock-on by Seagulls fullback Jason Hood gave Steel a chance to redeem himself with a try of his own on half-time.
Lakes’ defence deteriorated further in the second half as prop Mick Campton and hooker Ben Wyborn scored soft tries and Ndaira crossed the stripe.
Lakes prop Ben Sams scored on the final siren.
Wyong’s semi-final hopes appear over after Western Suburbs held on for a 20-16 win at Morry Breen Oval.
The Rosellas went out to a 20-4 half-time lead before Wyong fought back to get within a try with five minutes remaining.
Country Firsts representatives Justin Smith (ankle) and Simon Williams (shoulder) did not play for Wests after returning from Samoa on Saturday, but Steve Gordon backed up.
Cessnock welcomed the return of five of their six Country reps as they flogged Central Newcastle 48-6 at Cessnock Sportsground.
Prop Mick O’Shea is in a cam boot after injuring his ankle in Samoa and will have an MRI scan today.
On Saturday, Souths halfback Scott Briggs was a late inclusion for the Lions after he was released from the Knights NSW Cup side and he delivered a quality performance to keep the Merewether club’s finals hopes alive.
In the other Saturday game, the Pickers overcame a 14-4 deficit to beat Port Stephens Sharks 36-22 at Maitland Sportsground.