The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs got their season back on track with a 22-14 win over the Canberra Raiders in front of 10,873 fans who braved the chilly conditions at GIO Stadium.
Triumphant Blues’ halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson returned to the side after steering New South Wales to victory on Wednesday. However, David Klemmer and Sam Perrett joined the Bulldog’s growing injury list, with both players facing six week stints on the sideline.
Former Raider Drury Low came into the side on the wing and Mitch Brown shifted to fullback with Lloyd Perrett making his NRL debut off the bench at the expense of Pat O'Hanlon.
On a typically frosty winter night in the nation’s capital, where temperatures dipped to as low as -1 degrees, the Bulldogs took a while to warm to their task but eventually ran out comfortable winners. Behind 8-4 after half an hour, the Bulldogs rallied to set up an unassailable lead and get the show back on the road after suffering three consecutive losses.
Canberra made all the running early and capitalised in the 6th minute with Jarrod Croker opening the scoring before converting the try himself to set up a 6-0 lead.
Off the kick off the Raiders spread the ball quickly with Croker finding open space again. A great covering tackle from Corey Thompson forced an error from the centre though.
A Raiders fumble in 14th minute from a Reynolds kick gave the Bulldogs the chance to hit back feeding a scrum 10m out. They made it count with a clever tip on from Tim Lafai giving Low the chance to cut back inside and plant the ball down. Hodkinson’s conversion was waved away leaving the score 6-4 in the 16th minute.
The Raiders extended their lead in the 24th minute via a penalty, making it 8-4.
In the 33rd minute Thompson once again showed his knack for finding the line after quick hands from Reynolds and Inu gave the winger a sniff and it was all he needed to cross for his sixth of the season. Hodkinson made no mistake this time which gave the Bulldogs a 10-8 lead.
Reynolds unfortunately made a meal of the subsequent kick off giving the home side an opportunity to strike back quickly. Bulldogs muscled up in defence though, forcing an error mid-set. A 40/20 from Reynolds at the end of the following six tackles, gave the Bulldogs the chance to extend their lead three minutes before the break. In similar circumstances to their first try, Low was the recipient of another Lafai tip on which gifted Low his second of the night. Hodkinson failed with his conversion and 14-8 was the way it stayed until half time.
In the 50th minute Lafai swooped on a Reece Robinson mistake after the Canberra fullback lost the ball trying to force his way out of his own in goal. Hodkinson added the two for a 20-8 lead.
It was arm wrestle for the next 15 minutes with neither side gaining ascendancy but a barnstorming Greg Eastwood break in the 65th minute opened things up again. Camped inside the Raider’s 20m, a penalty was then awarded and the Bulldogs opted to take the two with Hodkinson extending the lead to 22-8.
Lloyd Perrett, the younger brother of Sam, got his first taste of first grade not long after, coming on for the tireless James Graham.
In the 74th minute the Raiders pulled one back via Anthony Milford who collected a Terry Campese grubber. Croker’s successful conversion was the last contribution to the scoreboard, leaving things 22-14.
Bulldogs next week have the bye, returning to action in Round 17 against Manly on Friday, July 4 at ANZ Stadium.
BULLDOGS 22 (Low 2, Thompson, Lafai Tries; Hodkinson 3 Goals) def. CANBERRA 14 (Croker, Milford Tries; Croker 3 Goals)
At: GIO Stadium, Canberra