The Bulldogs’ Harold Matthews (U16) and SG Ball (U18) teams began their seasons in red-hot form on Saturday, with both sides convincing winners over the St George Dragons in extremely hot conditions at Belmore.
The Under 16s kicked off proceedings in less-than-ideal fashion; a number of early penalties and repeat sets saw them touch the ball just once in the opening eight minutes. They managed to hold out the St George attack however, and winger Villy Tevaga slammed through the defence to open the account soon after. The home side began to find their feet in possession with a few big runs from Pesamino Pasina, who put Tommy Talau over off the restart. Talau would crash through for his second just minutes later before some individual brilliance in broken play from fullback Logan Dillon established a commanding 20-0 half time lead.
As the temperature rose early in the second half, so too did the penalty count; the Bulldogs gifted several repeat sets to St George, who were eventually able to register their first try. Canterbury continued to put the ball down handing Dragons possession, but their defence was unrelenting – and when Logan Dillon got his second try with six minutes remaining, the result was all but decided. A slick Dragons play to the right saw them score again, but the Bulldogs would ultimately finish 24-8 winners.
The SG Ball begun with much higher intensity from both teams, but it was the Bulldogs who came up with six errors and two penalties in the opening ten minutes. The visitors couldn’t convert, however, and winger Bilal Maarbani would soon pounce on a Dragons in-goal fumble to open the scoring. The blue and whites had then looked to dominate until a controversial double knock on decision allowed the Dragons to hit back. Injuries to both sides soon gave players long breaks to deal with fatigue, before second rower James Clark put Daniel Parker into the corner with a well-placed cut-out ball. That gave the home side a 10-4 half time lead.
The Bulldogs looked a stronger side in the second stanza and came close to scoring several times; eventually the Dragons defence cracked and Bilal Maarbani grabbed his second. After five minutes of back-and-forth errors, Will Kerr would get a quick-fire double and bring the score to 28-4 with 15 minutes remaining. A poor defensive read and an in-goal fumble would gift the Dragons two more tries, but Canterbury had earned their Round 1 win; the final score was 28-12.
Both grades will be pleased with the intensity of their opening round after a long pre-season and will look forward to returning to Belmore Sports Ground next week. The Harold Matthews and SG Ball sides take on the Central Coast Centurions at 11am and 12:30pm respectively on Sunday the 21st of February.
Harold Matthews Scorers
Bulldogs 24 (L Dillon 2, T Talau 2, V Tevaga tries; J Averillo 2 goals) bt St George 8 (H Georgeopolous, D Johnson tries)
SG Ball Scorers
Bulldogs 28 (B Maarbani 2, W Kerr 2, D Parker tries; K Hayman 4 goals) bt St George 12 (S Ikamu, A Tuigimala, S Filihiahekava tries)