An injury-depleted Bulldogs can hold their heads high after matching Temora for 40 minutes in their 30-10 loss at Les Boyd Oval yesterday.
Lifted by a surprise appearance from injured captain-coach Warren Lloyd, the Bulldogs shot out of the blocks with an early barrage through fullback Jason Cronin but were denied first-half tries on three occasions with a string of tight calls against them.
The Dragons were first to make an impression on the scoreboard, dotting down in the 10th and 31st minutes to build an 8-0 lead heading into the break.
The rugby gods seemed to be doing their best to keep the visitors ahead after two fine finishes from Cronin were disallowed, including a spectacular diving finish in the 24th minute.
However, slick interplay between Lloyd and centre James Howse saw the latter scoot over for a try in the shadows of halftime, reducing the margin to 8-4.
The pre-game Bulldogs helicopter may have made an impression but it was the Dragons who lifted off in the second stanza, running in four tries – including a brace to Atelea Nafetalai – to blow the home side out of the water.
To their credit, the tireless Dogs never gave up and the Les Boyd faithful were given something to cheer about after Pat Cameron scampered over for a late try to wrap the game up at 30-10.
Post-game, Lloyd stated his return was a temporary necessity in order to cover for the suspended Liam Duffy.
“I’m not back,” he said.
“We were just short today.
“I won’t be playing again (this year).”
The news will no doubt come as a blow to the Bulldogs after Lloyd combined well with James Smith in the halves, lending a hand with some towering punts and clean skills to set up Howse’s try in the first half.
Coota must now return to the drawing board ahead of Sunday’s clash with a red-hot Brothers Wagga outfit eyeing a top-four spot for their fourth win in a row.