On a day that belonged to retiring wing Hazem El Masri, the Bulldogs defied the loss of playmaker Brett Kimmorley to defeat the Warriors 40-20 and claim top spot on the NRL table.
In front of a bumper ANZ Stadium crowd of 41,835, El Masri's party was soured by a suspected fractured cheekbone suffered by Bulldogs halfback Kimmorley in an early headclash with Jerome Ropati.
Kimmorley was sent to hospital for further assessment and possible surgery with his involvement in the NRL finals series in serious jeopardy.
After receiving a rousing ovation as he took the field, it was only fair that El Masri claim the opening points courtesy of a penalty goal in the third minute.
Manu Vatuvei hit back for the Warriors with a typically rampaging charge to the try line two minutes later but of more concern for the Dogs was their veteran playmaker being led from the field.
Stepping up to fill the breach was Michael Ennis, who laid on a deft grubber for David Stagg to score in the 20th minute.
From there, with Ben Roberts maturely orchestrating the attack, the Bulldogs took control.
Josh Morris notched three tries within a scintillating six minute period, including a spectacular length-of-the-field effort after the halftime siren to make the score 28-4 at the break.
With one play left in the half Stacey Jones' desperate bomb was scooped up by Roberts, who unleashed the lightning centre to score his 19th try of the season and essentially put the game beyond the Warriors.
Vatuvei scored his second try to open the second half while prop Sam Rapira chipped in with a double of his own but the Bulldogs weren't to be denied their day of celebration.
Tries from Greg Eastwood and Jarrad Hickey put the icing on El Masri's cake, although he probably would have preferred an inside ball from Hickey, who ended up bouncing over the line with the diminutive wing wide open in support.
However the greatest point scorer in NRL history still farewelled his home crowd with a typically perfect eight-from-eight kicking performance.
As thousands of fans poured onto the field after the final siren to share a photo opportunity with the sharpshooter, El Masri was visibly moved by the moment.
"It can't get better than this. It's just awesome," said El Masri.
Bulldogs 40 (Morris 3, Hickey, Eastwood, Stagg tries: El Masri 8/8) def. Warriors 20 (Vatuvei 2, Rapira tries: Jones 2/4)
1. Luke Patten, 2. Hazem El Masri, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Jamal Idris, 5. Bryson Goodwin, 6. Ben Roberts, 7. Brett Kimmorley, 8. Ben Hannant, 9. Michael Ennis, 10. Michael Hodgson, 11. Greg Eastwood, 12. Andrew Ryan, David Stagg.
14. Jarrad Hickey, 15. Chris Armit, 16. Yileen Gordon, 17. Gary Warburton
Match: Warriors v Bulldogs
Round 1 -
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
- Fox League
- LIVE PASS