Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs cemented their spot in the competition’s top eight with a 30-10 win against the Wests Tigers in front of 9,877 fans.
There was only one change to the Bulldog’s team that edged past Parramatta last week with Pat O’Hanlon replacing Lloyd Perrett, who will be sidelined for six to eight weeks with an ankle injury, on the interchange bench.
Bulldogs exacted revenge for their defeat at the hands of the Wests Tigers back in Round 19, running in five tries to two with Tim Lafai collecting a double.
The greasy pitch conditions saw the opening sets of the match riddled with errors. However, back-to-back penalties in the 9th minute gave the Bulldogs a chance to post first points and they took full advantage with Josh Jackson slicing through the Tiger’s defence. Trent Hodkinson put his conversion straight over the black dot leaving the score 6-0.
Corey Thompson extended the Bulldog’s lead in the 16th minute after a cut-out pass from Sam Perrett gave the winger space to scoot down the sideline before sliding over. Hodkinson knocked over the extras from the sideline making it 12-0.
Lafai got in on the act in the 21st minute, dancing past a couple of defenders after receiving an off-load from Jackson. Hodkinson added the two for an 18-0 lead.
In the 29th minute, Lafai collected his second of the night after a long pass from Hodkinson gave the centre space to jink his way to the line in signature style. It was Lafai’s tenth try of the season, taking over from Thompson as Bulldog’s top try scorer after 24 Rounds. Hodkinson slotted the conversion from the sideline for 24-0.
It was four tries to zero in the first half, with the Bulldogs heading to the sheds brimming with confidence. James Graham led the charge in the tackle (22) and hitup (12) count after 40 minutes. Sam Perrett, meanwhile, suffered a rib injury and wasn’t to play any further part in the match which saw Josh Morris shift to fullback.
Heavy rain fell during the half-time break and the slippery conditions gave the Bulldog’s the chance to post further points early in the second half courtesy of a Blake Austin error. After a repeat set and then a penalty for a high shot on Graham, the Bulldog’s looked to have scored in unlikely fashion. It wasn’t to be though. Hodkinson threw a cut-out pass intended for Mitch Brown but it instead bounced off the chest of Morris. Jackson dived on the loose ball but was deemed to have lost control by the video referee.
Luke Brooks ran 90m to put the Tiger’s on the board in the 51st minute winning a foot-race against Brown, who started on the opposite side of the field. The conversion attempt from Corey Paterson was waved away leaving things 24-4.
Skipper Michael Ennis added some spark to the Bulldog’s attack in the 67th minute, grubbering through for himself before collecting the ball next to the posts. Hodkinson converted for a 30-4 lead.
Bulldogs looked certain to add another try to the tally with only a couple of minutes remaining after Thompson broke through and kicked ahead for Morris. Morris however, couldn’t get a clean pick-up and the video referee took little time in flashing the red light.
Tigers soon after scored a buzzer-beating consolation via Aaron Woods who chased through a Robbie Farah kick. Paterson added the two for a full-time score of 30-10.
Bulldogs play again next Thursday night, this time in an ANZ blockbuster against the high-flying Rabbitohs. Kick-off at 7:45pm local time.
BULLDOGS 30 (Lafai 2, Jackson, Thompson, Ennis Tries; Hodkinson 5 Goals) def. TIGERS 10 (Brooks, Woods Tries; Paterson 1 Goal)
At: ANZ Stadium