Bulldogs beat Warriors in cliff-hanger

It took the Bulldogs 78 minutes into their Round 5 fixture to finally get their noses in front with a dramatic late field goal from Trent Hodkinson proving the difference. In doing so, Bulldogs skipped over Tigers and Eels on the ladder to reclaim second position.

Bulldogs were boosted by the return of co-captain Frank Pritchard, who started on the bench with Pat O’Hanlon omitted from the extended bench. Winger Mitch Brown also returned having recovered from an ankle injury incurred in Round 2 against the Sharks. He replaced Chase Stanley who is facing a three-week stint on the sideline with a shoulder injury.

Warriors prop Sam Rapira charged into the Bulldog's defensive line to open proceedings but Warriors lost the ball on the second tackle. Bulldogs had their first set of the match just 25m out. James Graham went close to scoring in the 4th minute on the back of a repeat set but the home side’s defence held strong.

It was the Warriors however, who opened the scoring after a Ben Matulino offload set Thomas Leuluai free before he put Sam Tomkins over just to the left of the posts in the 9th minute. Shaun Johnson added the two to make it 6-0.

A strong hit-up from Tony Williams earned his team a penalty in 15th minute and from the subsequent set, quick hands looked to have put Corey Thompson over in the corner but a last-ditch tackle from Tomkins forced the ball loose.

Tomkins was again in the thick of the action in the 22nd minute with his error giving the Bulldogs another opportunity to level up the scores but again the Bulldogs came up empty-handed.

The Bulldogs lack of execution proved costly as not long after another Matulino offload saw Manu Vatuvei scoop up the ball to give the Warriors a 10-0 lead in the 26th minute after consultation with the video referee. Johnson’s conversion struck the post.

It wasn’t long before Bulldogs hit back though. A strong tackle from Tim Lafai forced the ball loose and from the next set Sam Perrett crashed over for his first try of the season on the back of a sweeping backline movement. Hodkinson added the two and in the 32nd minute the scoreboard read 10-6.

A big chance for the Bulldogs went begging in 33rd minute after Reynolds broke through but instead of finding support, the ball went to ground. All of the momentum was suddenly with the Bulldogs and half time could not come quick enough for the tiring Warriors unit.

A Jacob Lillyman error in the 37th minute gave the Bulldogs a chance to head to the sheds in front but it wasn’t to be. Warriors went into half time with a 10-6 lead.

A contentious decision in the 42nd minute, where the ball looked to have been stripped, gave Warriors possession in Bulldog’s territory. On the last tackle a Leuluai kick bounced off Josh Morris into the hands of centre Konrad Hurrell who dived over. Johnson failed to convert leaving the score 14-6.

A spiralling Reynolds bomb in the 47th minute was spilt by Vatuvei gifting the Bulldogs possession just 20m out. From the ensuing set, Reynolds drifted across the field before putting Williams through to score under the posts. Hodkinson made no mistake and it was 14-12.

The tit for tat scoring pattern continued in the 58th minute with Warriors hitting back though their captain Simon Mannering who managed to ground the ball millimetres before it went dead having chased a Johnson grubber. Johnson converted to give Warriors a 20-12 lead.

A penalty for holding the ball in the 64th minute gave the Warriors another crack at the Bulldog’s line but a Hodkinson intercept instead sent the Bulldogs charging up-field. Although the half-back didn’t have the pace to go the distance, from the next tackle the Bulldogs switched their attack to the right and an overlap saw Lafai cross in the corner. Hodkinson converted from the sideline to make it 20-18.

It was end to end football for the last 10 minutes but it took a clever around-the-corner offload from Williams to level the scores up. His pass put Reynolds into open space and after being held down in the tackle, Reynolds was awarded a penalty. Hodkinson slotted the two to make it 20-20 in the 76th minute.

Warriors had the first chance to aim up at a field goal but sprayed it wide. Hodkinson however, made no mistake in the 78th minute, sweetly timing his effort which sailed over the sticks. Warriors had one last chance, starting their set 60m out but after a half-break from Hurrell, the ball was spilt and the Bulldogs, for the second week in a row, were home by a single point.

Bulldogs next Friday afternoon meet the Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium. Kick-off at 4pm.

BULLDOGS 21 (Perrett, Williams, Lafai Tries; Hodkinson 4 Goals; Hodkinson 1 Field Goal) def. WARRIORS 20 (Tomkins, Vatuvei, Hurrell, Mannering Tries; Johnson 2 Goals)

At: Eden Park, Auckland

Crowd: 22,165