The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs lost 20-12 tonight against a Johnathan Thurston-inspired Cowboys team in front of 9,873 fans.
There were plenty of changes to the Bulldogs’ 17 with Sam Perrett returning at fullback a major boost to the blue and whites. This forced Mitch Brown onto a wing at the expense of Drury Low. With Josh Morris again missing, Moses Mbye covered in the centres with Tony Williams partnering Trent Hodkinson in the halves. Dale Finucane came into the starting back row while Harlan Alaalatoa came onto the bench.
Looking to bounce back after going down to the Tigers last weekend, a high error count ended up proved costly for the Bulldogs against the Cowboys with a Thurston master class seeing the North Queenslanders take the two competition points in a 20-12 win.
A couple of early opportunities on the back of penalties gave the Bulldogs excellent chances to post the first points of the match but on each occasion, put the ball down.
Perrett announced his return in outstanding fashion, saving a certain try in the 9th minute after Cowboys’ winger Matthew Wright made a run for the corner. Perrett then played a big hand in the first try of the night with Brown scoring from the subsequent set of six. Quick hands from the left edge on the last tackle gave Brown enough space to scramble over. The conversion from Hodkinson never looked like missing, giving Bulldogs a 6-0 lead in the 15th minute.
Cowboys lost James Tamou with a neck injury in the 18th minute, with the Australian front-rower taken to hospital for precautionary scans. Soon after, Tim Lafai was denied a try by the video referee after the centre lost the ball short of the line.
Bulldogs created space again on the last tackle in the 20th minute but the attack petered out after Corey Thompson put boot to ball. Lloyd Perrett came on for Sam Kasiano not long after – the first time brothers Lloyd and Sam have been on the field together in the NRL.
Wright wasn’t to be denied in the 25th minute, with a backline movement from the Cowboys catching the Bulldogs short in numbers. Thurston hooked his conversion attempt, leaving things 6-4.
Wright made it two tries in four minutes after chasing down a Thurston chip in behind Brown from close range. Thurston slotted the extras for a 10-6 lead.
After being awarded a penalty as the first half drew to a close, Thurston pointed to the posts. He made no mistake, extending the Cowboys’ lead to 12-6. That’s the way the score stayed at the 40 minute mark.
Skipper Michael Ennis topped the tackle count with 24 while Dale Finucane’s enjoyed a productive half, producing 10 hitups.
Cowboys started the second half as they finished the first, dominating the opening minutes before posting a four-pointer in the 48th minute through Antonio Winterstein via a Thurston assist. Thurston converted the try, leaving the score 18-6.
The home side doggedly worked their way back into the match and were rewarded in the 61st minute with a no-look Hodkinson pass putting Josh Jackson through next to the posts. Hodkinson converted to make it a six-point ball game at 18-12.
An error at the back from Michael Morgan put the Bulldogs on the attack again, with Lloyd Perrett going close in the 65th minute but was held up in goal.
As the match wore on the intensity grew, with a damaging 10 minutes from Kasiano shifting the momentum. In the 73rd minute the Bulldogs forced a repeat set but an error late in the ensuing tackle count from Reni Maitua released the pressure.
With the clock ticking away, when the Cowboys were awarded a penalty 30m out, right in front of the Bulldog’s posts it was little surprise to see Thurston again opt to take the two. Thurston’s kick was successful, stretching the lead to an unassailable 20-12 with only a minute remaining.
Bulldogs play Penrith next Friday night at ANZ Stadium, with kick-off 7:45pm local time.
COWBOYS 18 (Wright 2, Winterstein Tries; Thurston 4 Goals) def. BULLDOGS 12 (Brown, Jackson Tries; Hodkinson 2 Goals)
At: ANZ Stadium