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Roberts ready to lead Bulldogs

By Steve Jancetic 30/08/2009 07:15:24 PM Comments (0)

Bulldogs playmaker Ben Roberts declared himself ready to step into the void left by injured teammate Brett Kimmorley after steering the club to within sight of the NRL minor premiership in a 40-20 win over the Warriors at ANZ Stadium.

On a day almost 42,000 fans turned out to say goodbye to retiring winger Hazem El Masri, it was Kimmorley they were left grieving for after the veteran No.7 suffered a suspected fractured cheekbone just five minutes into the contest.

But on the same day the Bulldogs overtook St George Illawarra as ladder leaders and premiership favourites, Roberts was adamant the injury didn't mean it was farewell to the club's title chances.

And he backed up the claim with a superb all-round performance in the six tries to four romp, which only got as close as it did thanks to a pair of late tries to Warriors prop Sam Rapira.

"I'm going to take it upon myself to lead the boys around," Roberts said.

"It's going to be a challenge but at the same time it's probably something that I'm looking forward to as well.

"I suppose everything he taught me all year I've got to put into action now."

Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore nominated Roberts and hooker Michael Ennis as the men he would turn to in Kimmorley's absence, with utility Daniel Holdsworth likely to come into the side to wear the No.7 jumper.

Moore said all was not lost with Kimmorley's injury, pointing to the fact his side has won all three matches in which Kimmorley has taken little or no part in so far this season.

"It's a challenge I think, we've faced adversity on a number of occasions this season and we've always responded really well," Moore said.

"Every No.7's important to your team but, as you saw today, Michael Ennis carries a fair bulk of the responsibility with the way we play.

"So maybe we're not as hurt as other sides might be, given that we've got a quality No.9 and Ben Roberts has had a fantastic year."

Kimmorley was taken to hospital for scans, with the best case scenario being three weeks out with a fractured cheekbone, and surgery to install a plate likely on Monday.

However, if there is a crack to the front orbital in the eye socket, the champion playmaker is unlikely to play again in 2009.

On a day which belonged to El Masri, with the largest crowd to a stand-alone regular season fixture in Sydney since 1974 in attendance, the Bulldogs ensured they didn't disappoint, the only downside being El Masri's inability to get across the stripe.

It wasn't for a lack of trying, though, with the NRL's leading pointscorer pleading with Jarrad Hickey to pass him the ball late in the match as the towering prop made his way to the line.

"He had a look and he saw me but he said 'nup'," El Masri recalled.

"He said 'Haz, I know it's your day but I had to get off the mark'."

El Masri did finish with 16 points after a perfect eight-from-eight with the boot, centre Josh Morris sharing the glory with a hat-trick of tries in a seven-minute stretch just before halftime which gave the Bulldogs an unassailable 28-4 lead at the break.

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