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Bulldogs Win to Leapfrog Magpies

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have notched up back-to-back wins with an impressive 40-22 victory over the Western Suburbs Magpies, with the 18-point margin seeing the home side overtake their opponents to place fifth on the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder.

While defensive issues were evident in the Magpies' middle third, the Bulldogs showed promise with strong showings from Zac Woolford,  Renouf To'Omaga and winger Josh Bergamin, who scored a double and set up another. It was an up-and-down game for Matt Frawley, who failed to finish the game due to a Head Injury Assessment, but the Canterbury-Bankstown halfback also played an instrumental role in his side's win.

Just two minutes into the contest, the Bulldogs made the most of good field position off the back of a penalty to open the scoring. A good ball from Renouf To'Omaga initiated the shift left, before current fullback Mason Cerruto found his predecessor Josh Bergamin in the south-east corner. Morgan Harper's conversion attempt was waved away and the home side led 4-0.

Seven minutes later, a second Bulldogs penalty yielded the same result as the first, once again down their left-side attack. This time a short ball from Matt Frawley found Asipeli Fine to score, with the conversion attempt again sailing wide.

The Magpies, down 8-0, capitalised on their first attacking opportunity when centre Braden Robson outmuscled Frawley, lunging towards the line to score. A successful conversion from Tyson Gamble reduced the deficit to two points.

Frawley's defensive problems were beginning to become evident for the Magpies, who exploited it for two line-breaks midway through the first half. With Gamble laying on the first break for Chris McQueen, the Western Suburbs No.6 made the second himself in some second-phase play, eventually passing to Lucas Price to score and give the visitors a two-point lead.

The Magpies put on the pressure yet again but this time an intercept would put the Bulldogs on the front foot; Harper made a 70-metre break to put his side in a position to score. With Western Suburbs' defence holding strong, Zac Woolford took on the offside Magpies markers to earn a penalty, kicking the goal to level scores.

In the ensuing set, Harper came up with another break to make valuable metres for the Bulldogs. This time a Woolford offload opened up the opportunity for Josh Cleeland to exploit, sliding past would-be defenders before setting up Tom Carr in the south-western corner. Cleeland - the Bulldogs' third different goal-kicker in as many attempts - calmly added the extras from out wide.

It was Chris Smith's turn to find space for the Bulldogs in the follow-up set, but a penalty for an incorrect play-the-ball threatened to derail the home side's momentum. A vital Magpies error, however, gifted the Bulldogs another six points when a wayward Tyson Gamble pass was picked up by Bergamin, who raced 80 metres to notch up his second double in as many games.

The Bulldogs looked to enjoy a 22-10 half-time lead, but a juggle from Smith would prove their undoing late in the opening period. Still 60 metres from the Bulldogs' line, the Magpies made their way upfield through Harrison O'Toole, eventually shifting left to makeshift centre Sam McIntyre. With the No.18 scoring and Gamble converting, it sent both teams into the Belmore sheds with a 22-16 score line.

If the try conceded on the stroke of half-time was to hurt the Bulldogs' chances in the second half, they wasted little time making up for it. Cleeland first found space in the middle of the field before Woolford, in a 20-metre dash from dummy-half, easily broke free to score his second try of the season and regain his team's 12-point lead.

It would next be another good effort from Bergamin to extend the Bulldogs' lead further, when the winger took advantage of an overlap to race 30 metres down the western touch line, throwing inside to a charging Lachlan Burr to finish the run. Cleeland's conversion gave the Bulldogs a lead of three converted tries with 30 minutes remaining.

Ten minutes passed before the Bulldogs once again pressed through the Magpies' middle third for more points. A Tyson Gamble error paved the way for Canterbury-Bankstown to march upfield, with Woolford then drawing and passing to Frawley to stroll over from close range.

While Frawley would soon come from the field with an HIA, while Cerruto and the Magpies' Oliver Clark were also taken from the field late in the contest. What was close to a scoreless second half for the visitors ended with a consolation try to Watson Heleta, who took a Gamble offload to score under the posts and finalise the 40-22 score line.