Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs fired a warning shot to their rivals with the semi-finals in sight, defeating Brisbane Broncos 18-16 on their own patch.
Frank Pritchard and Aiden Tolman both returned to the side but Greg Eastwood missed out due to suspension. This saw Sam Kasiano start at lock and Llyod Perrett added to the bench.
It was Des Hasler’s 100th game in charge of the Bulldogs and the boys lifted, turning around an early 10-0 deficit to reel in the competition leaders to record an 18-16 victory. Trent Hodkinson’s perfect night with the boot proved the difference.
Back-to-back penalties put Broncos on the attack in the early stages of the match and an overlap on their right edge saw Corey Oates go over untouched. Corey Parker failed to convert to leave it 4-0 in the 8th minute. Another penalty in the following set put Broncos deep on the attack again but strong defence forced an error from Parker.
Bulldogs finally got a run of possession thereafter but Sam Kasiano had the ball jolted loose when they were camped on Brisbane’s line. Josh Jackson split the Broncos open in the 16th minute before finding Josh Morris down the left. Desperate defence from Justin Hodges saw him pulled down just short of the chalk though.
Bulldogs were getting into plenty of good positions but failing to execute. They were punished for that in the 23rd minute with Oates crossing for a second try, finishing off a sharp backline movement which again caught Sam Perrett off his wing.
Bulldogs came close in the 26th minute after Pritchard came up with a Hodkinson bomb but he was ruled to have dropped the ball over the line by the video referee. However, the pressure finally brought points in the 30th minute with Michael Lichaa putting Tolman over next to the posts. Hodkinson slotted the two for 10-6.
Pritchard again came very close, this time in the 35th minute, after a busy Lichaa once more created space for a forward up the middle. Pritchard was hauled down inches from the line. All of the late momentum was with the blue and whites but Brisbane kept aiming up in defence to hold a 10-6 half-time lead.
Bulldogs charged out of the blocks in the second forty, playing with plenty of intensity. It paid off immediately with Sam Perrett darting through to score in the 44th minute. Hodkinson nailed the two for Bulldogs to take the lead 12-10.
Lichaa, who was enjoying one of his finest games for the club, left the field with knee injury in 60th minute and will be sent for scans tomorrow (Saturday). This saw Moses Mbye slot in at hooker and Jackson go into the halves.
A brilliant exchange of passes in the 64th minute led to Josh Morris extending the Bulldogs lead. Hodkinson converted for an eight-point buffer.
When Kasiano tackled Darius Boyd without the ball, the penalty piggy-backed Brisbane up the field and a strong run from Parker saw him crash over under the posts. Parker converted his own try for 18-16 with seven minutes remaining.
Broncos had a try disallowed in the subsequent set for a knock on from a bomb after Milford claimed a try in the corner.
Sam Perrett took a pearler of a catch in the 77th minute to release the mounting pressure, after Hunt opted to go high again on the fifth tackle in a last-ditch effort to snatch the game.
Bulldogs wound the clock down from there on in to win 18-16, ending Brisbane’s streak of wins at home. A much-needed two points! Proud to be a Bulldog!
Bulldogs take a home game to Central Coast Stadium next Sunday afternoon, where they host Gold Coast Titans. Kick-off 4pm local time.
BULLDOGS 18 (Tolman, Perrett, J.Morris Tries; Hodkinson 3 Goals) def. Broncos 16 (Oates 2, Parker Tries; Parker 2 Goals)
At: Suncorp Stadium