The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs recorded their seventh straight win in defeating the Warriors 16-12 at Waikato Stadium in front of a 17,673-strong crowd.
Bulldogs went into their Round 10 fixture with the same team that thrashed Dragons 38-6 and with State Of Origin selection on the line, there was plenty at stake in their home game at Hamilton, New Zealand.
It took the Bulldogs, who were wearing their purple Women in League jerseys, thirty minutes to post their first points but once they hit the front early in the second half, they had little trouble holding the Warriors at bay. Their seventh straight win cemented their position as the competition leaders.
The last time the two teams met back in Round 6 there was just a solitary point between them with Bulldogs winning 21-20 and it was evident from soon after kick-off that Warriors weren’t going down without a fight again.
A mistake from Tony Williams gave the Warriors an attacking opportunity just 10m out in the 3rd minute but a strong set of defence held them out. Then a penalty in 5th minute put Warriors into attacking territory once more but the Bulldogs’ defence stood firm.
It was all Warriors in the opening period and eventually the pressure told with backrower Ben Matulino forcing his way over in the 12th minute after receiving a short ball from Nathan Friend. Shaun Johnson added the extras to post a 6-0 lead.
In the 20th minute the Bulldogs showed a hint of what they are capable of with an adventurous grubber from Williams picked up by Hodksinson who found Ennis who put through a kick of his own but it was cleaned up by Warriors’ fullback Sam Tomkins.
Williams was again in the thick of the action in the 24th minute with an offload giving Sam Kasiano a sniff of the line but he was hauled down. Warriors soon after gifted Bulldogs another attacking opportunity but they again came away empty-handed.
It took half an hour but Bulldogs finally broke through with a great cutout pass from Kasiano sending Mitch Brown over in the corner to finish a slick backline movement. Trent Hodksinson sent the conversion left of the posts to leave the Bulldogs trailing 6-4.
A scrappy ten minutes ensued with the score staying at 6-4 when the half-time siren sounded.
The Bulldogs struck the first blow of the second half, hitting the front in the 44th minute after a brilliant short ball from Hodkinson on the Warriors’ line put James Graham through untouched. Hodkinson added the two for a 10-6 lead.
Bulldogs then extended their lead in the 52nd minute keeping the ball alive after a cross-field kick, with a Sam Perrett offload eventually sending Greg Eastwood over. Hodksinson failed to convert and the score stood at 14-6.
A great covering tackle from Josh Jackson in the 58th minute on a free-striding Manu Vatuvei ensured the lead stayed at eight points.
A penalty in the 66th minute on the back of a strong Graham charge gave Hodksinson the chance to add another two from in front of the posts and he made no mistake in making it 16-6.
Warriors hit back in the in the 74th minute through centre Ben Henry who finished off a backline movement that caught Bulldogs short on their right-hand side. Johnson added the extras to cut the lead to 14-10.
Soon after the restart Shaun Johnson broke free down the sideline and looked certain to score to tie the game up but a flying effort from Josh Morris denied the halfback. It was a spectacular covering tackle from the Kangaroos centre.
A Bulldog’s mistake from a Warriors bomb with less than two minutes remaining gave them one last shot at the Bulldog’s line. However, a desperate set of defence was a fitting way for the Bulldogs to earn yet another victory as tough second half performances have been the blueprint for their great start to the year.
Bulldogs next Friday night chase their eighth consecutive win of the season against Roosters at ANZ Stadium. Kick off 7:45pm local time.
BULLDOGS 16 (Brown, Graham, Eastwood Tries; Hodkinson 2 Goals) def. WARRIORS 12 (Matulino, Henry Tries; Johnson 2 Goals)
At: Waikato Stadium