Canterbury’s big-name signings ensured the Trent Barrett era at the club got off to a winning start but it was journeyman hooker Bradley Deitz who helped spark the 16-12 victory against Cronulla at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
With Kyle Flanagan, Corey Allan, Nick Cotric, Jack Hetherington and Corey Waddell all making their first appearance in a Bulldogs jersey, it took time for the combination to jell but Barrett’s men overcame a 12-0 halftime deficit to snatch a late win.
Despite the clash being a trial there was plenty of feeling in the game and Flanagan was singled out for special treatment by Sharks captain Wade Graham, while Barrett said he had wanted his team to come away with a win.
Cotric and rival centre Josh Dugan both failed to finish the match due to ankle injuries but both are expected to be fit for the opening round of the Telstra Premiership in two weeks.
“I was pleased with the way we hung in and won the game,” Barrett said. “We want to compete in everything we play in and I thought some guys did really well.
Match: Sharks v Bulldogs
Round 3 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney
“A trait that we always want to have is that you don’t give up and you have got to be able to play for the 80 minutes. I don’t think we conceded a point from about the 25th minute, and we did a bomb a few.”
The Bulldogs trailed until the 65th minute when Deitz raced out of dummy-half to score under the posts.
The 25-year-old, who has been playing for North Sydney in the NSWRL’s Canterbury Cup, almost scored again soon after when he split the defence and kicked ahead but the ball went dead.
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“He nearly kicked that ball to Wollongong and he is a bit dirty on that but he is a good little player, who has come up on a train-and-trial contract with us,” Barrett said.
“He is a school teacher so he has been in and out of training the last few weeks trying to sort his work out but I thought he took his opportunity tonight and did well.”
Barrett hopes to have hooker Jeremy Marshall-King and five-eighth Jake Averillo available for the round one clash with Newcastle but he said prop Dylan Napa and Raymond Faitala-Mariner were racing the clock to be fit.
With so many new faces in the Bulldogs line-up, it is going to take time for combinations to form and their right edge appeared particularly vulnerable in the early stages as winger Ronaldo Mulitalo crossed for two first-half tries.
Mulitalo got his first try in the 13th minute after Moylan linked with fullback Will Kennedy to create an overlap for the United States international and he scored 15 minutes later in almost identical circumstances after the trio combined again.
In between his two tries, Mulitalo also saved one when he tackled wing opposite Dallin Watene-Zelezniak into touch and that was as close as Canterbury got to scoring in the first half.
Cronulla blew another try-scoring opportunity before halftime after hooker Blayke Brailey sprinted out of dummy-half before sending Jack Williams racing away but the young forward seemed unaware that Moylan was looming in support and was tackled short of the line.
Tempers flared late in the half after Graham was penalised for a late tackle on Flanagan and Ofahiki Ogden lined up Josh Dugan with a stinging tackle that left the former Test star hobbling with an ankle injury that prompted coach John Morris to rest him for the second half.
The Bulldogs started in better fashion after the break and almost had their first try in the 43rd minute but Flanagan knocked on as he reached out to plant the ball after Graham fumbled a grubber by Canterbury five-eighth Brandon Wakeham that bounced awkwardly.
Watene-Zelezniak finally got the Bulldogs on the board in the 51st minute after Flanagan and Wakeham combined with Allan before Will Hopoate put the New Zealand skipper over in the corner.
Elliott scored 12 minutes later when he beat three defenders after Flanagan sent him on an angled run to reduce Canterbury’s deficit 12-10
Deitz then put the Bulldogs ahead of the first time in the match when he raced nine metres from dummy-half to score in the 65th minute and he almost repeated the feat soon after but kicked ahead and the ball went dead.