Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs recorded a stunning comeback over the Wests Tigers to secure a 25-24 Golden Point victory on the back of a Moses Mbye field goal.
Brett Morris injured his calf in the pre-match warm up which saw Corey Thompson come into the side on the wing with Sam Perrett shifting to fullback. Tim Lafai also missed the game with a quad injury suffered during the week which saw Josh Jackson move to the centres and Frank Pritchard into the starting side. Antonio Kaufusi was named to make his Bulldog debut from the bench.
It was an away game but the Bulldog’s crowd were in full voice as the blue and whites chased down a 24-6 deficit to a spirited Wests Tigers outfit to steal an unlikely victory at the death.
It was a less than ideal start from the Bulldogs though with a Thompson mistake in just the 2nd minute gifting Wests and early opportunity. Numerous repeat sets saw the Tigers camp on the Bulldogs’ line in the opening exchanges.
In the 5th minute the pressure told with a short ball from Luke Brooks putting Kyle Lovett into a gaping hole. Replays showed the pass went forward. Mitchell Moses converted for a 6-0 lead.
Bulldogs struck back in the 16th minute in spectacular fashion with a seemingly impossible offload from Pritchard allowing Curtis Rona to flop over the line unmarked. Trent Hodkinson slotted the extras from the sideline to level up the scores.
James Tedesco crossed the stripe in the 24th minute but the video referee ruled it no try on the back of illegal interference from a decoy runner.
The Tigers really pressed in the final minutes of the first half but came up empty-handed. In a first forty minutes riddled with errors, neither side really asserted their dominance. The score stayed 6-6 when the two teams headed up the tunnel.
Tony Williams had a big first half with eight runs for 94m and making 14 tackles. Aidan Tolman led the counts though with 10 hit ups and 18 tackles.
Tigers drew first blood in the second half with a deflected Greg Eastwood kick bouncing kindly for Brooks who streaked away to score, despite the brave chase of Tim Browne. Moses converted for a 12-6 lead in the 48th minute.
From the subsequent set the Tigers extended their lead via James Tedesco who collected a Brooks grubber after the half-back found space through the middle. Moses added the two for an 18-6 score line.
Tedesco grabbed a quick-fire double in the 56th minute, again off a well-placed Brooks kick. Moses made no mistake from in front to make it 24-6.
Sam Kasiano was held up in the 58th minute as the Bulldogs mounted a comeback but a tackle later there was no denying Michael Lichaa who ducked under a few tackles before scoring next to the posts. Hodkinson converted to cut the deficit to 12.
A brilliant cut out pass from Kasiano found Rona unmarked in the 67th minute to cross in the corner. Hodkinson’s conversion never looked like missing, clawing the score line back to 24-18. The Dogs were on the charge!
The momentum was well and truly with the boys in blue. However, just as they looked set to strike again, camped deep inside Tiger’s territory, a mistake from Pritchard in the 71st minute eased the pressure.
A snap field goal attempt from Brooks in the 74th minute was skewed to the right. It was to prove very costly.
From the next set the Bulldogs spread the ball to their left edge and a clever Rona offload to Josh Morris saw the representative centre skip past Tedesco and collect a big four-pointer. Hodkinson kept a cool head to nail the two and level it up with four minutes remaining!
Neither team added to the total in regular time. Golden Point would decide this one.
A Morris half-break from their first set put the Bulldogs in a great position to set for a field goal but Hodkinson duffed his effort. Tigers had a chance of their own in the next set but had their attempt deflected.
It looked likely that Hodkinson would set himself for another shot but he instead set up Moses, who drove a low field goal through the sticks to secure the win! Proud as ever to be a Bulldog!
Next round’s Good Friday fixture promises to be a blockbuster against the Rabbitohs. Kick-off at 4pm local time, at ANZ Stadium.
BULLDOGS 25 (Rona 2, Lichaa, Morris Tries; Hodkinson 4 Goals, Moses Field Goal) def. TIGERS 24 (Tedesco 2, Lovett, Brooks Tries; Moses 4 Goals)
At: ANZ Stadium