Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs prevailed in a thrilling game of footy with an extraordinary Josh Reynolds field goal and a late Moses Mbye try sealing a remarkable 41-34 victory.
With Trent Hodkinson, Josh Morris, Josh Jackson and David Klemmer all representing the Blues on Wednesday night, there was a new look team face the Raiders, who were unaffected by Origin. James Graham and Chase Stanley were also ruled out earlier in the week with injury.
This saw Tyrone Phillips make his first grade debut on the wing with try-scoring machine Curtis Rona shifting to centre. It was a timely return for Tim Lafai, recovering from a knee injury sustained against the Rabbitohs back in Round 5.
Bulldogs started the match like they were shot out of a cannon, charging to a 26-0 lead within 20 minutes. Raiders mounted a stirring come back and despite getting on level pegging with five minutes remaining, the Bulldogs bravely called on their last energy reserves to win a see-sawing affair.
It took the Bulldogs just three minutes to open the scoring with an enterprising exchange of passes down the left resulting in Michael Lichaa burrowing over. Moses Mbye, playing halfback, also took over the kicking duties and nailed the conversion for an early 6-0 lead.
Raiders were penalised for offside from the subsequent kick-off giving the Bulldogs a great chance to double their lead. A backline movement, this time down the right, gave Rona enough room to slide over in the corner. Mbye slotted the conversion from the sideline for a 12-0 score in the 6th minute.
Josh Reynolds stepped his way through the Raider’s defence in the 9th minute before stretching out to plant the ball down, collecting Bulldog’s third try. Mbye converted for 18-0.
A fired up Reynolds collected a double on the 15th minute mark after Mbye scooped up a Frank Pritchard offload before drawing and passing for his halves partner to cross under the posts. Mbye added the two for 24-0.
A quick shift to the left straight off the kick-off gave Phillips his first touch and after palming off his opposite he bolted up field to be tackled 40m out. A penalty soon after gifted the Bulldogs the chance to extend their lead further and they took the two for a 26-0 lead in the 19th minute.
Reynolds was penalised on his own line for taking out Jarrod Croker in the 23rd minute giving Raider’s their first chance to post points of their own but were met with a blue and white wall, and were turned away empty-handed.
Corey Thompson looked to have got in on the act in the 28th minute but Reynold’s looping pass to the unmarked winger was ruled to have gone forward.
Canberra crossed for their first in the 31st minute via a strong Sisa Waqa charge. Croker failed to convert for 26-4.
Shaun Fensom chased a speculative Croker kick which wobbled infield and was rewarded in the 36th minute, scoring under the sticks. Croker made no mistake from in front for 26-10, with half-time closing in. However, the Raiders were far from done with Josh Papalii collecting a knock-back from a Blake Austin bomb on the last play of the first 40 minutes to cut the deficit to just 10.
Reynolds finished the first half with seven runs (63m), two tries, four tackles busts and 13 tackles. Skipper Aiden Tolman (who went on to play the full 80 minutes!) took 14 runs (116m) and made 13 tackles.
Raiders started the second half as they ended the first – with all the momentum. It took them until the 51st minute to crack the Dogs with Austin running on to a Waqa wrap around. Croker added the two for a 26-22 score line.
Pritchard sliced through in the 57th minute after great dummy half work from Lichaa to stem the flow. Mbye failed to convert for 30-22.
From the subsequent set a simple error from Sam Kasiano put Raiders back on the attack and they didn’t let the chance slip with Josh Hodgson grubbering for Mitch Cornish to score. There was a hint of offside but the video referee ruled in favour of Canberra. Croker converted for 30-28 in the 61st minute.
Raiders returned the favour from the kick-off, turning the ball over. Thompson made the Raiders pay, capitalising on a backline movement with a smart put down. As a side note, it was the 80,000 try scored in Australian premiership rugby league history. Mbye sprayed his conversion to leave things 34-28 with just over 15 minutes remaining.
Lafai came from the field in the 69th minute with a suspected shoulder injury, leaving the Bulldogs with a depleted bench. The petrol light was flashing empty for the Bulldogs and Waqa pushed his way through to score in the 74th minute. Croker levelled the scores up from the sideline.
Canberra marched up field from the next set giving Austin the chance to take a one point lead in the 76th minute but his attempt faded to the right.
With less than two minutes on the clock, the Bulldogs packed a scrum on their own 10m line. On the back of a strong set, Reynolds snapped an unbelievable field goal from the sideline with only seconds left!
Raiders attempted a short kick-off with the clock stopped with 30 seconds remaining. Pritchard plucked the rolling ball out of the air and sent Mbye streaking clear to score a 60m try, capping the courageous victory in style. Wow!
Bulldogs have the bye next weekend and are back in action at ANZ Stadium against the Dragons in Round 13.
BULLDOGS 41 (Reynolds 2, Lichaa, Rona, Pritchard, Thompson, Mbye Tries; Mbye 6 Goals; Reynolds 1 Field Goal) def. CANBERRA 34 (Waqa 2, Fensom, Papalii, Austin, Cornish Tries; Croker 5 Goals)
At: GIO Stadium