The Bulldogs have continued their strong start to the junior representative season, with both the Harold Matthews (U16) and SG Ball (U18) outfits running out Round 2 winners over the Central Coast Centurions. Both sides remain undefeated and showed definite signs of improvement in their clashes at Belmore Sports Ground today.
Physicality was the name of the game in the Harold Matthews – five of the game’s seven tries would be scored by forwards. An early fumble from the Centurions’ fullback gifted centre Brodie Strickland a four-pointer, but some hard-hitting defence and a series of forced errors soon set the tone for the rest of the match. The home side extended their lead when prop Terence Toomata crossed, before a number of penalties forced them to defend their line. With Kurtis Morrin soon stepping his way through the Central Coast defence to score, Canterbury-Bankstown would head into halftime with a healthy 16-0 lead – the second consecutive week they’ve held the opposition to nil in the opening stanza.
After defending repeat sets on their line to begin the second half, the Bulldogs were helped back up field with a string of penalties before Toomata showed sheer strength to bag his second. Momentum looked to shift when a Fred Tohi sin-bin reduced the home side to 12 men, but the Bulldogs’ cover defence was persistent, and a barnstorming Vikilifi Hopoi run saw them put the result beyond doubt with 10 minutes remaining. When the Centurions were dealt a sin-bin themselves they managed to make the most of a more open 12-a-side game, posting two late tries to get on the board. Overall it was a promising sign from the Bulldogs, finishing 28-8 winners.
The under 18s were up for the challenge in the final game of the day, almost registering points from a cross-field kick early in proceedings. It would be five-eighth Keiran Hayman to open the account however, scoring next to the posts before converting his own try. One try would soon bring two more; a good line break from Giordan Patea sent fullback Thomas Mcgrady under the sticks, before speedy winger Bilal Maarbani exploited a simple overlap to register his third for the season. While the Centurions were made to pay for a heap of possession given away on their line, it wouldn’t be as costly for the Bulldogs; they successfully defended a number of penalties on their own line and were eventually gifted a quick 20m tap and some easy metres. The visitors did score in the final play of the first half, however, bringing up an 18-4 scoreline at the break.
With some strong defence the Bulldogs maintained some good field position early in the second stanza and second-rower Jack Gordon soon made the most of it. Just three minutes later a wayward Central Coast pass was pounced on by Hayman, who grabbed his second and established what would be an insurmountable 24-point lead. The team began to build momentum and put on a promising display of second-phase play and physical runs – one of which bore fruit for Pule Sua when he crossed next to the posts. A set play soon sent Bailey Simonsson over in the corner with 10 minutes remaining, before the Bulldogs let in two late tries for the second consecutive week. While coach Shane Sultana may not be impressed with his side’s defence in the final stages, they showed promising signs in their 42-14 win.
The first half defence has been a strongpoint for both grades so far in the season – neither side has been losing at any point of their two games. They look forward to taking on the Western Suburbs Magpies at Campbelltown Stadium next weekend, who have scored just four points in each of the grades’ one game. The Harold Matthews will kick off at 10:30am and the SG Ball at 12pm on Saturday, the 27th of February.