The Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs hit back after a tough week with a well-deserved 16-2 win over the third-placed Dragons at ANZ Stadium.
Three tries in the second half to Josh Morris, Michael Lichaa and Marcelo Montoya turned the game for the Bulldogs, but it was an improved defensive performance to that set the platform for the win, with the Dragons held try-less for the first time in 2017.
After a tight first half that saw the Dragons take a 2-0 lead into the break, the Bulldogs grabbed the lead in the 54th minute with Josh Morris finishing off some great lead up work from Will Hopoate. Matt Frawley kicked cross-field and Chase Stanley batted the ball down to Danny Fualalo who shuffled the ball wide to the Dogs’ fullback. Hopoate broke two tackles and then linked with Morris on his inside who crashed over.
Michael Lichaa then grabbed his first try of the year, darting from dummy half on the back of a great lead-up run from Brett Morris, before local junior Marcelo Montoya added his fifth of the year to put the game out of the visitors’ reach.
In a gripping first half, both sides had their chances but couldn’t capitalise. The Dragons took a slender 2-0 lead into the break following a Gareth Widdop penalty goal.
The Bulldogs started the game well, playing expansive footy and with both halves showing a willingness to take the line on. The home team controlled the ball in the first 10 minutes, earning two repeat sets and completing well. Adam Elliot and Josh Morris created a number of opportunities down the left but the Bulldogs came up empty early.
The Dragons then had all the possession and field position in the back end of the half, with some desperate Dogs defence holding on before the break. Marcelo Montoya brought down Jason Nightingale just short of the line in the 31st minute and on the other side the Bulldogs scrambled to stop Josh Dugan extending the Dragons lead.
For the Bulldogs, Will Hopoate was again solid at the back, defusing some dangerous attacking kicks and making some strong carries out of the Bulldogs’ half. He was well supported by Marcelo Montoya who looked dangerous on the right flank.
On the left, Matt Frawley worked well with Adam Elliott and Josh Morris, creating numerous attacking opportunities. Sam Kasiano got the Dogs rolling forward in some good periods either side of the half and late in the game.
Chase Stanley made a welcome return and was solid in defence at right centre, working well with Marcelo Montoya.
Bulldogs 16 (Josh Morris, Michael Lichaa, Marcelo Montoya tries; Moses Mbye 2 goal) def. Dragons 2 (Gareth Widdop 1 penalty goal) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: 0-2. Crowd: 24,083.