Bulldogs searching for a silver lining

Steve Zemek
Canterbury may have found its silver lining to their 2018 season in the shape of Lachlan Lewis

If Canterbury are looking for a silver lining to their disastrous 2018 NRL season, it might be in the shape of rookies Lachlan Lewis, Ofahiki Ogden and Reimis Smith.

The Bulldogs' 2018 season has been plagued by off-field problems such as their salary cap mess as well as long-term injuries to key players.

The youngsters replacing them set about restoring pride in their jumper with last week's win over Newcastle - just their fourth victory of the year and second since April.

When they face Canberra at Belmore Sports Ground on Saturday night, the Bulldogs will have five players in their top 17 with less than 20 games experience - Lewis, Ogden, Smith, Jeremy Marshall-King and Rhyse Martin.

Lewis has been shifted into the No.6 for the injured Kieran Foran and withstood a baptism of fire when he was targeted by the Knights in his debut last week.

Auckland-born back-rower Ogden talks of his desire to "smash" the opposition, while Smith, the son of former New Zealand international Tyran Smith, looked good in scoring one try and setting up another two against the Knights.

"Being young ... they contribute hugely (to) the energy of the team," Lewis said.

"That's been a big focus of the last two weeks - to change the energy of our performances. Our determination to compete, our eagerness to be on the field playing NRL, I think that's a big thing for the team."

The Raiders are likewise trying to save face after a season of near misses.

They sit six points behind eighth-placed Brisbane with nine games remaining, the finals seemingly out of reach.

This year, including last week against the Broncos, they have twice lost after leading by 16 points or more.

No other side has lost after leading by a 16-point margin, and seven of their nine losses have come after leading or being level at the 65-minute mark.

"It's quite frustrating sometimes but we've kept saying before it's not through a lack of effort or anything like that," Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker said.

"It's not ideal coming into every game talking about the same thing, it gets quite frustrating. We can't sit there and sulk about it, we have to move on."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Despite making the fourth fewest metres (1326 per game) the Raiders are still scoring the third most points (23.6 per game) and making the second most linebreaks (4.9 per game).

* The Raiders have conceded 52 per cent of their tries (26 of 50) through their right hand side, the highest percentage of any team.

* Since taking games back to Belmore in 2015, the Bulldogs have won just two of seven matches at their spiritual home ground.