Bulldogs defeat Knights in NRL clash

If the Bulldogs were an Olympic team they would likely be subject to an inquiry, such is their dominance of all things rugby league this season.

They play with the Dream Team's flair, Usain Bolt's speed, Michael Phelps' unshakable confidence and the strength of the entire weight-lifting contingent. Their performance-enhancer of choice? One Desmond Hasler.

If there has been a more comprehensive display of all things wonderful that the NRL has to offer in recent years, this scribe hasn't seen it. And Wayne Bennett's Newcastle Knights certainly experienced the best of it tonight, left scratching their heads as Des Hasler's men put on a first-half clinic to punish the home side 26-10.

In front of a hostile 29,482 fans, the Canterbury club put together arguably their most finished performance of the season in a brilliant first-half to secure their 10th consecutive victory. One couldn't help but think that even Hasler's all-conquering 2011 Manly side would struggle to hold a candle to the spare parts side the coach has assembled in his debut season draped in blue and white.

Mid-season transfer No.1, Krisnan Inu, converted five goals from as many attempts, while mid-season transfer No.2, Sam Perrett, was responsible for the side's opening try.

And if Ricky Stuart thinks he's any chance of breaking Queensland's State of Origin dominance in 2013, he'd best think again because the addition of young Ben Barba must now be a certainty. The mini maestro had a hand in everything and it would be a crime against rugby league if the livewire fullback didn't find himself in the No.7 jumper in seasons to come.

It took 40 minutes for the Knights to cross for their first try, courtesy of Akuila Uate, but it only took one minute and 45 seconds for the Bulldogs to post first points through Joel Romelo.

In a devastating sign of what was to come, the Dogs send the ball wide and to the right before Perrett put in a pin-point accurate in-field kick for Romelo to latch on to. Inu converted the extras to give the Bulldogs a six-nil lead and a sniff of their 10th straight victory.

And if the first was a shock for the Knights than the second was plain embarrassing, Uate failing to ground the ball in-goal only for Bulldogs winger Jonathan Wright to get a limp wrist to the Steeden and be awarded a benefit-of-the-doubt four-pointer.

Again, the try came from a kick - this time Barba - making it the Dogs' 26th try from a kick this season. And true to plan, Inu converted the extras to be out to a 12-nil lead within the opening seven minutes.

The Knights had won their past four matches against the Bulldogs but in front of a packed home crowd, they looked anything but the top-eight side they were hoping to become by defeating Hasler's men.

At just the 11th minute, the Knights' premiership hopes were put on life support when Wright crossed for his second and at the 16th the power was officially switched off, Josh Reynolds continuing his dream season to score the Bulldogs' fourth and put the result beyond doubt with more than three quarters of the match still to be played.

The Knights threatened a comeback at the start of the second stanza when Uate barged over for his second and the kickers forced three consecutive in-goals. But the Dogs' second-half defence was equal in superiority to their first-half attack. They may have let the foot off the gas come the second 40 but that just highlighted their defensive prowess.

Inu added insult to injury in the final minute, Knights captain Danny Buderus watching helplessly from the sideline as the Bulldog slotted a penalty goal to end the match.

And to think Sam Kasiano, Kris Keating, Trent Hodkinson and Dene Halatau are still to return.

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