Four tries to Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs centre Kerrod Holland has sealed a memorable victory for the Bulldogs, who have run away with a 34-16 victory over the Newcastle Knights.
In perfect conditions at Belmore Sports Ground, Holland was a standout - but the likes of Craig Garvey and Harry Siejka also performed admirably in the home side's win.
A host of late team changes featured in both sides heading into the Round 21 clash; Matt Frawley sat out the game for the Bulldogs, with Brad Abbey in his place, Tyrone Phillips lining up at fullback, Asipeli Fine coming into the centres and Danny Fualolo also returning from the top grade. The Knights had a back line reshuffle of their own, with Akuila Uate's NRL call-up forcing Ryan Walker into fullback, Chanel Mata'utia into the vacant centre position and Will Pearsal into the number six jersey.
A penalty had the blue-and-whites forced to defend early in the contest and it would be the Knights' Uiti Baker to open the scoring. The big prop couldn't be contained close to the line and with the Bryce Donovan conversion the visitors had six points after as many minutes.
The home side would hit back before too long through Lamar Liolevave, who stepped and shrugged off a defender to hit a big gap and score. Kerrod Holland failed to add the extras, however, and the Bulldogs still trailed by six points to four.
The Bulldogs soon had the chance to build pressure, with a Reubenn Rennie forced dropout and two Newcastle fumbles giving the home side four back-to-back sets. Eventually it would be Craig Garvey to make the most of the pressure; the hooker spotted a sluggish Newcastle defence and dived over from dummy-half to score a simple try. The Bulldogs took a 10-6 lead after the opening quarter of the game.
Silly mistakes were beginning both teams' chances of progressing the score any further; Tyme Dow-Nikau looked destined for the tryline but was called back for a crucial forward pass. The 'Dogs made them pay the next time they were in enemy territory, with Holland showing some fancy footwork and pulling off an impressive try. The sharp shooter converted his own try for a 16-6 scoreline.
The Knights weren't done with for the first half, however, with Jaelen Feeney picking up the scraps from a cross-field Pearsall kick to score his team's second. McNamara converted and the score was 16-12 heading into half-time.
An error early in the second half would prove costly for the Bulldogs, with Ken Tofilau showing his pace to score in the ensuing set of six. The conversion was waved away, but suddenly it was all locked up at Belmore Sports Ground.
The Bulldogs turned momentum back in their favour and were throwing everything at their opposition, but failed to capitalise on strong field possession on more than one occasion. After what seemed like an age on the Knights' line, the home side eventually crossed it through Holland for a second time - who then converted to re-establish a six-point advantage.
When Holland got a chance to make it a hat-trick soon after, he took it with both hands, showing his strength to bring up the treble. Once again he added the extras and at 28-16 with 11 minutes remaining, it appeared that Canterbury-Bankstown had some room to breathe.
The Knights regained possession from the kick and tried everything to mount a comeback, but ultimately were unable to post more points. When Holland scored a fourth in the 76th minute - once again slotting the conversion from the sideline - he made the final scoreline 34-16 against his old side.
Canterbury 34 (K Holland 4, C Garvey, L Manuel-Liolevave tries; Holland 5 goals) def Newcastle 16 (U Baker, J Feeney, K Tofilau tries; B Donovan, J McNamara goals)