The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have overcome a horror start to hand Mounties their first defeat of 2018, defeating the Canberra Raiders feeder side 34-22 at GIO Stadium.
Bulldogs veteran Greg Eastwood, Francis Tualau and Asipeli Fine were strong performers for the Canterbury-Bankstown side, while Renouf To’Omaga and Reimis Smith grabbed a double each. Former Bulldogs Craig Garvey and Brad Abbey were intent on winning against their old side, but Garvey’s absence for much of the second half hurt Ryan Carr’s men.
It was far from an ideal start for the Bulldogs, with Kerrod Holland sending the kick-off out on the full. That gave Mounties an immediate attacking position and they made no mistake; former Bulldogs Craig Garvey and Brad Abbey combined to send Tyler Cornish past John Olive to score.
With just four minutes gone, Holland got another chance to restart, making no mistake the second time around. Another Mounties attacking set brought easy points, however, with Cooper Bambling stepping through the defence to plant the ball down. Sitiveni Moceidreke added the extras and after seven minutes, the Bulldogs trailed 10-0 having not touched the ball.
The visitors eventually earned possession and with a penalty going their way close to Mounties' line, they got on the board in the 12th minute. It would be an offload from Eastwood to get the play going, with Bronson Garlick then sending Fine over for a try under the posts. With Rhyse Martin making no mistake, it was 10-6.
Garvey's exceptional form continued minutes later when he sent the ball to Royce Hunt, who crashed over for more points in a worrying sign for the Bulldogs. Defensive concerns, however, were to be felt by both sides; in the ensuing period of possession, Renouf To'Omaga barged over for a similar try down the other end.
Canterbury-Bankstown looked to be re-energised after their slow start and with a penalty and Josh Cleeland forced dropout, began to build some pressure. It brought more points late in the half, following a Kerrod Holland break through the middle of the field. A left-hand shift through Frawley, Holland and Olive ended with Reimis Smith twisting his way through the defence to score, Martin converting from out wide for an unexpected 18-16 lead.
A collision between Lachlan Lewis and Ata Hingano resulted in Hingano leaving the field in the final minutes of the first half, with the 18-16 scoreline remaining until the break
The second period started in opposite fashion to the first, with the visitors able to build pressure. They weren’t to come up with points immediately, but eventually found the line again; Olive did well to exploit Mounties’ right-edge defence before finding Jayden Okunbor for his second try in the Intrust Super Premiership.
It was a matter of time until Abbey injected himself into the game again and when he dazzled the Bulldogs defence for a mid-field line-break, he came close to earning the home side more points. Holland caught his opposite number, but was ruled to slow the play-the-ball down and found himself in the sin bin.
A man down, the Bulldogs continued to hold Mounties out and scored another to go further ahead. For the second time in the contest, an Eastwood offload resulted in a try, an agile To’Omaga getting his second under the posts. With the conversion from Martin it was 30-16 in the Bulldogs’ favour, which they held on to until Holland returned.
The Bulldogs continued to suffocate Mounties, whose failure to find strong field position cost them. Cleeland and Frawley combined for back-to-back forced dropouts and in their third consecutive set, Smith scored his secont. An outstanding cut-out pass from Holland found his winger and while Martin’s conversion attempt was waved away, the Bulldogs led 34-16.
Canterbury-Bankstown was destined for the two competition points, but a last-ditch effort brought a thrilling Mounties try at the death. As the full-time siren sounded, two fine passes from Abbey and Cornish found Ravalawa, who goose-stepped his way down the touch line before putting in an infield kick for Abbey. The fullback planted the ball down and with the conversion, left the final score at 34-22.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 34 (R Smith 2, R To’Omaga 2, A Fine, J Okunbor tries; R Martin 5 goals) def Mounties 22 (T Cornish, C Bambling, R Hunt, B Abbey tries; S Moceidreke 2, C Bambling goals)