The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs this afternoon had no answer for a rampant young Tigers side who scored nine tries in a 46-18 win in front of 22,225 fans.
Josh Morris and Pat O’Hanlon dropped out of the side named on Tuesday with Krisnan Inu playing in the centres again with Drury Low coming in on the wing. Tim Browne ran on in the starting side at prop with Dale Finucane switching to the bench. Moses Mbye also returned from a foot injury sustained back in Round 11 to take the final spot amongst the substitutes.
Skipper Michael Ennis, wearing the number 16 #RiseForAlex jersey, led the Bulldogs onto ANZ Stadium in an away fixture hoping to consolidate their position at the top of the NRL premiership.
It was tit for tat in the early stages but as the match wore on, the Tigers asserted their dominance scoring 30 unanswered points in the second half. The enthusiastic Tigers outfit capitalised on a few crucial errors throughout the match and a mounting tackle count against the Bulldogs (273 tackles compared to Tigers 175) took its toll late in the game.
Tigers went close to opening the score in the very first set of six of the match, with Pat Richards losing the ball in the corner as he attempted to plant it down.
Bulldogs instantly replied with a Sam Kasiano offload sending Mitch Brown streaking up field. He was hauled down by Mitchell Moses but from the next tackle the ball was sent wide for Krisnan Inu to cross untouched. Trent Hodkinson nailed his conversion for a 6-0 lead in the 5th minute.
In an action-packed start, a Brown error from the subsequent kick-off gave the Tigers the chance to hit back immediately. Bodene Thompson crashed over on their right edge and after Moses was successful with his conversion, it was 6-6 after just seven minutes of play.
Tigers went on the attack again in the 10th minute courtesy of a misunderstanding from Brown and Corey Thompson, resulting in a Brown fumble. On the first tackle from the scrum the Tigers spread the ball wide and found an overlap on their right for Keith Lulia to cross. Moses made it 12-6, converting from the sideline.
A brilliant piece of work from Hodkinson in the 17th minute then led to a Tim Lafai try. The Origin half-back grubbered through the line for himself to regather, pass to Josh Jackson who set Lafai free. Hodkinson then added the extras to level it up at 12-all.
On the back of a penalty, Bulldogs marched up the field and through Thompson to find the front again. Kasiano drew in a few defenders before shifting the ball to Lafai who sent Thompson over. Hodkinson made it three from three, stretching the lead to 18-12 in the 21st minute.
Hodkinson was soon after penalised, and put on report, for a dangerous throw in 24th minute gifting Tigers the chance to strike back. A neat backline movement saw Lulia cross for his second of the afternoon. Moses pushed his conversion left to leave the score 18-16.
Jackson joined Hodkinson on report in the 27th minute, for an alleged trip on Moses who was chasing through his own chip and chase. With Tigers pressing again, this time the Bulldog’s defence stood tall forcing a turnover.
Brown made a 70m dash with six minutes remaining in the first half but it didn’t eventuate in any points. With 34 points scored in an entertaining first 25 minutes, things were bound to settle down eventually. Although there were opportunities for both sides to score again, no further points were added in the first 40 minutes with Bulldogs heading to the sheds 18-16 in front.
A Bulldogs error in the opening minute of the second half gave the Tigers possession just 10m out and the home side made it count with Lulia getting his hat-trick. Blake Austin took over kicking duties with Moses’ niggling groin injury, but was unsuccessful leaving the score 20-18 in the 43rd minute.
Tigers went back-to-back when a short grubber from Moses was collected by Curtis Sironen to score in the 51st minute. Austin missed the conversion leaving it 24-18.
After earning a repeat set on the back of a penalty, the Tigers again attacked the Bulldog’s left-hand side with Lulia collecting his fourth of the match via an acrobatic put down. Pat Richards took the conversion but missed leaving the score 28-18 in the 56th minute.
Luke Brooks added his name to the scoresheet in the 58th minute diving under the posts and the extras from Richards made the score 34-18. In the 71st minute they were at it again with Aaron Woods collecting a rare four-pointer crashing over. Richards added the two for a 40-18 lead.
Jackson was denied a late consolation try by the video referee in the 73rd minute after Ennis was deemed to have obstructed the marker. Tigers put an exclamation mark on their victory in the last minute of the match with an Austin kick collected by a flying James Gavet. Richards converted the try to seal the comprehensive 46-18 win.
Bulldogs next Saturday host the Cowboys at ANZ Stadium, with kick-off 7:30pm local time.
TIGERS 46 (Lulia 4, Thompson, Sironen, Brooks, Woods, Gavet Tries; Moses 2, Richards 3 Goals) def. BULLDOGS 18 (Inu, Lafai, Thompson Tries; Hodkinson 3 Goals)
At: ANZ Stadium