The timing of the NRL classic between Canterbury and Canberra could not have been better.
A day after the case for a stand-alone State of Origin series was made loud and clear by a stinker of a game at Campbelltown, the Bulldogs and the Raiders produced a 13-try thriller on Sunday.
Missing four players on Origin duty for NSW, including halfback Trent Hodkinson, the Bulldogs scored seven tries to six in the 41-34 win as they rediscovered their best form.
NSW discard Josh Reynolds starred for the Bulldogs with a couple of tries and a field goal as Canterbury ended a three-game losing run.
Hodkinson’s replacement Moses Mbye was outstanding for Canterbury with the youngster making the most of his opportunity at halfback, sealing the victory with a runaway try on fulltime.
The sides scored nearly as many tries (seven) in the first half as there were points in North Queensland’s 8-0 win over hosts Wests Tigers on Saturday night.
Fans at Campbelltown had to wait until the 77th minute for a try with Antonio Winterstein’s four-pointer preventing the match from becoming the lowest-scoring game since Newtown and Canterbury’s scoreless draw in 1982.
North Queensland went into the game without Queensland Origin stars Johnathan Thurston, Matthew Scott and Michael Morgan and NSW prop James Tamou while the Tigers were missing NSW big guns Aaron Woods and skipper Robbie Farah.
Both sides produced disjointed attacking displays with the game politely referred to as “dour”.
Former NRL coach and now commentator, Matthew Elliott, is in the stand-alone camp and made his case on Sunday.
“You take key players out … you are taking quality, high quality out. You can’t expect the game to be at the same level,” Elliott said on ABC Grandstand.
“The continuity is not there, so you’re not going to get flowing footy taking key players out.”
Tigers coach Jason Taylor decided to sit out the argument with his focus on getting his misfiring young team back on track after three straight losses.
“I don’t know. Right now, that question is something that I don’t want to come up with any energy to answer,” Taylor said.
Cowboys coach Paul Green admitted the Tigers were a different proposition without their captain.
“Without Robbie there they probably lost a little bit of direction, so it just became a bit of an arm wrestle for most of the game,” Green said.
The round kicked off with premiers South Sydney defeating Parramatta 14-12 thanks to late try from young hooker Cameron McInnes in a game which didn’t reach any great heights.
Round 11 action concludes with the Monday night clash between Newcastle and Brisbane at Hunter Stadium.