Heading into the crunch time of the season, the Canterbury Bulldogs sat three points adrift of the top eight and were in desperate need of a win.
Contrastingly, the New Zealand Warriors were flying high with 30 points and in third place on the ladder
Hooker, Craig Garvey was instrumental in a hard fought contest with an unquestionable work-rate seeing the hooker bag a crucial try, line- break and a try assist. In form fullback Brad Abbey was everywhere, making try saving tackles and popping up in support at just the right moments to land a try and a superb try-assist.
The Bulldogs looked the more likely to score in the opening exchanges with their wingers each guilty of missing clear cut opportunities courtesy of some strong Warriors defence. But when the Dogs were awarded their third penalty of the match in the 20th minute, they took full advantage. Some instrumental cross-field running from their hooker, Garvey, created an overlap, which the Dogs right edge was able to exploit. Winger Tyrone Phillips crossed over in the corner for first points, but the try went unconverted by Kerrod Holland. The scores read Bulldogs 4 Warriors 0 after twenty minutes.
The Warriors were guilty of gifting the Bulldogs the ball multiple times in the first half with some silly errors made whilst working it out of their own end. But the Bulldogs failed to convert their opportunities despite multiple occasions of sustained pressure on the Warrior’s line.
The Warriors ended the first half in possession of the ball and were awarded their fourth penalty on the last play. Opting to take the two; Mason Lino converted the straight kick from thirty metres out and the scores read Bulldogs 4 Warriors 2 heading into the sheds at halftime.
It took just five minutes for the Bulldogs to pick up where they left off, with Abbey crossing over after hitting a hole at speed and carrying two defenders over the line, five metres wide of the posts. Holland made no mistake this time, and took the Bulldogs lead out to eight with the scores standing 10 – 2 with 35 minutes to play.
The Dogs were at it again in the 54th minute after some strong carriers from their forward pack marched the team up-field before they spread the ball down their left edge. In a movement that any first-grade team would be proud, Marcelo Montoya crossed over out wide after a beautiful 20 metre cut out pass from Abbey gave the winger the space he needed to extend the Dogs lead. Holland slotted the conversion from the sideline to take Canterbury’s lead out to two converted tries and a penalty goal. With 25 minutes to play the scores read Bulldogs 16 Warriors 2.
Eight minutes later some opportunistic play from Montoya saw the winger pick up a dropped ball before basketball passing it over his opposing winger and putting his supporting hooker Garvey into space. Garvey made no mistake and placed the ball down just wide of the posts. Holland converted the Bulldogs fourth try to take the Dogs lead out to twenty points.
With fifteen minutes to go and twenty points down, the Warriors opted for the short kick off and were rewarded with possession. Viliami Kaveinga crashed over after burrowing his way over the line from dummy half and Lino added the extras to give the Warriors some hope heading into the final stages of the match. With twelve minutes to play the scores stood Bulldogs 22 Warriors 8
The Warriors would score a consolation try in the final play to have the scores stand at 22-14 Bulldogs win at fulltime.
The Warriors were severely outplayed and outmuscled and the hungry Bulldogs appear to have no intention of letting their season end prematurely with a dominant performance showcasing their desire to scrap into the top eight.
Canterbury 22 (T Phillips, B Abbey, M Montoya, B Garlick tries; K Holland 2, R Moujalli goals) def NZ Warriors 14 (V Kaveinga, J Palavi tries; M Lino 2 goals)