Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs were overrun late by the South Sydney Rabbitohs to go down 21-14 in a hard-fought encounter in front of 20,424 fans.
The same Bulldogs 17 that defeated Tigers 30-10 last week lined up against the Rabbitohs, including Sam Perrett who recovered from a rib injury. A fixture steeped in history, before this Round 25 match it was the Bulldogs who held the overall head-to-head edge winning 78 of their 148 matches (South Sydney 66, drawn 4).
Skipper Michael Ennis ran through a congratulatory banner before kick-off, celebrating his outstanding contribution to the club. It was also Greg Eastwood’s 100th game for the Bulldogs. The game was a fiercely contested one and although Bulldogs led for the majority of the match, the Rabbitohs pulled clear in the final 10 minutes.
The Bulldogs had the first opportunity of the game with Josh Jackson losing the ball over the line after collecting a Hodkinson grubber in the 3rd minute.
It was a bright start from the boys in blue as just four minutes later a short-side play involving Moses Mbye and Josh Morris resulted in Mitch Brown scoring down the left. Hodkinson knocked the conversion over for a 6-0 lead in the 8th minute.
A string of penalties saw Rabbitohs camp on the Bulldog’s line approaching the half hour mark and in the 28th the pressure told with Sam Burgess crashing over. Adam Reynolds levelled it up at 6-6, successfully adding the two from beside the posts.
On the back of a Rabbitoh’s error, Ennis restored the lead in the 33rd minute, sucking the defence in with a dummy before scooting through to cross. Hodkinson slotted the extras for a 12-6 scoreline.
The Bulldog’s took this six-point lead to the break, rattling the Rabbitohs several times with strong defence. The engine room led the way with Tolman (20), Ennis (23) and Graham (25) racking up plenty of tackles.
South Sydney struck the first blow of the second half with a Luke Keary offload sending Sam Burgess over for his second try of the night. Reynolds again levelled it up, converting for a 12-12 score in the 47th minute.
A second consecutive penalty in the 53rd minute gave Hodkinson the chance to restore the lead via a penalty and he made no mistake, making it 14-12.
With 10 minutes remaining the Rabbitohs were gifted good field possession after Hodkinson kicked the ball out on the full. After subsequently earning a repeat set of six, it proved a costly error with the Rabbitohs hitting the front for the first time in the match after a Reynolds long ball put Lote Tuqiri over in the corner. Reynolds converted from the sideline in the 74th minute, leaving it 18-14.
Soon after, as the Bulldog’s attempted to work the ball off their own line, an offside penalty while in possession gave Reynolds the chance to add a further two. He nailed it for a 20-14 lead with just four minutes remaining.
A drop goal from Reynolds in the 78th minute sealed the deal for the Rabbitohs.
Bulldogs play their final match of the regular season next Sunday, facing the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium with kick-off at 3pm local time.
RABBITOHS 21 (Sam Burgess 2, Tuqiri Tries; Reynolds 4 Goals, Reynolds 1 Field Goal) def. BULLDOGS 14 (Brown, Ennis Tries; Hodkinson 3 Goals)
At: ANZ Stadium