Mounties opened their 2017 campaign in style at Aubrey Keech Reserve today, accounting for the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs 22-14 in slippery conditions.
Boasting a new-look line-up — most notably missing 2016 Player of the Year Sam Williams — last year’s minor premiers and grand finalists gave every indication that they will again be a force in 2017.
Mounties back-rower Anthony Moraitis helped his side with a try-scoring double, while Isaac John kicked three goals.
But it was the performance of hooker, Sam Duggan, who would lay the platform for Mounties, thanks to an energetic performance out of dummy-half — the hooker not only scoring a try but consistently keeping the Bulldogs defence guessing with his opportunistic darts.
Mounties looked well in control in the opening 10 minutes of proceedings, with five-eighth Jordan Turner asking plenty of questions of the Bulldogs defence inside the 10-metre line — the pivot looking to link with his outside men with two dangerous grubber kicks that would ultimately prove fruitless.
But while the opening 10 minutes may have belonged to Mounties, Canterbury began to assert their authority thanks to some mammoth charges from prop-forward, Renouf To’omaga in centre-field, who helped to put his side in perfect attacking position.
Rhys Martin would be the beneficiary a few tackles later, with the back rower crashing over from short-range to open the scoring, making it 4-0 in favour of the Bulldogs.
The points emboldened the men in blue and white, with the visitors putting on a short-side-play on the ensuing set just over half-way that would see fast-finishing winger, Marcelo Montoya, streak some 30 metres to take Canterbury’s lead to 8-0.
Mounties looked to make the most of their next attacking opportunity close to the line when fullback, Lachlan Croker, grubbered for an unmarked Eddie Aiono, but the winger was unable to capitalise thanks to the scrambling of the Dogs defence.
However, with the home-side building pressure, Duggan crashed over from dummy-half to finally open the scoring for his team. John added the extras from right next to the sticks to make it a two-point ball-game, with the Bulldogs now leading 8-6.
The Mounties fightback continued to gather steam when Duggan sliced through the Bulldogs defence inside the 20 metre line before being brought down just metres from the try-line. But the hooker would be awarded a penalty after being hit high in the tackle.
The penalty would prove costly for Canterbury, with Mounties taking full advantage by spinning the ball out quickly to centre, Reubenn Rennie, who stepped inside a Dogs defender to score a crucial four-pointer. John’s conversion attempt was waved away, but the home-side was now in the lead by 10-8.
With just one minute left in the first half, tempers began to flare with the referee needing to separate the two teams at centre field. The teams would ultimately retreat to the sheds with Mounties leading 10-8.
On the resumption, Mounties continued to dominate with some adventurous passing in the wet conditions, before back-rower Anthony Moraitis took a rebound off his winger in the in-goal before planting it down for a try. John added the extras to make it 16-8 in favour of the home-side.
Moraitis would strike again some seven minutes later in a near identical spot when he finished off an energetic passage of play from the home-side close to the line before John again added the extras to take Mounties lead to 22-8.
With four minutes remaining, the Bulldogs would grab themselves a consolation try through Brad Abbey, with Rhys Martin adding the extras to take the final score to 22-14.
Mounties 22 (A Moraitis 2, R Rennie, S Duggan tries; I John 3 goals) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 14 (R Martin, M Montoya, B Abbey tries; R Martin goal)