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Brilliant Barba leads Bulldogs to victory

Ben Barba has pulled out yet another brilliant performance as the Bulldogs claimed the 6th annual Reconciliation Cup at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
Brilliant Barba leads Bulldogs to victory
by NRL

Ben Barba has pulled out yet another brilliant performance as the Bulldogs claimed the 6th annual Reconciliation Cup at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs game and all matches during Round 22 are dedicated to Oxfam Australia's Close the Gap campaign, raising awareness for indigenous issues, something very close to Barba's heart.

"It's a great concept," Barba said after his match winning performance. "The Reconciliation Cup means a great deal to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and rugby league in general."

As expected from two top level sides, the start of the all important clash was particularly ferocious, with James Graham and James Tamou at their hard running best. Each side tried to assert their dominance up front upon the other, but with the spoils equally shared, the match began to evolve into the expansive encounter that was originally anticipated.

The Cowboys were first to get an opportunity in the red zone, and looked promising in attack, however, after the Bulldogs defence held firm, they received their chance, with excitement machine Ben Barba running 40 metres to score after latching onto a fantastic Josh Reynolds offload. Krisnan Inu made no mistake with the easy kick to give the home side a 6-0 lead after 13 minutes.

Not be outdone, Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen stamped his authority on the game with a pin-point grubber kick to in-form centre Kane Linnett to level the scores in an emphatic reply midway through the first half.

After the opening tries from both clubs the match immediately opened up with Antonio Winterstein and Josh Morris both looking threatening on their respective edges. However, it would be pocket dynamo Ben Barba who would be the man to break the deadlock, with another 40 metre try after latching onto a Josh Jackson offload who was put through a lovely hole by James Graham.

Barba's double seemed to invigorate the Bulldogs, with Inu then increasing the lead shortly after, leaping above Kane Linnett to score a benefit of the doubt try down the right edge. The Bulldogs centre converted his own try taking the score to 18-6 after 35 minutes.

The Cowboys rallied late in the first half, looking promising to get in a dangerous attacking position, but unfortunately for the North Queensland men, the attacking raid faltered after a drop ball, leaving the scoreline at 18-6 as the sides went to the sheds.

The second stanza started at a frantic pace, with Johnathan Thurston and Antonio Winterstein combining well. The two set up a break down the left in the opening minutes of the second half before combining for a try shortly after when Winterstein dived on a bouncing ball in the in-goal to bring the Cowboys within a converted try at 18-12.

The Bulldogs almost hit back shortly after with Josh Morris streaking down the field, certain to score, before possibly the best tackle of the season by Matt Bowen dragged the Bulldogs centre into touch just before the ball was grounded keeping his side in the match.

A bit of Thurston/Bowen magic then gave the Cowboys a chance after Thurston split through the defence, however, as was the story of the night, neither fullback wanted to get bested by the other, with Barba defending Bowen nicely as he cruised down field.

However, the Cowboys could only be held out so long, with Johnathan Thurston scoring his first try of the season, throwing a dummy and sliding through for the try. The five-eighth then converted his own try, evening up the scores at 18-18 with 20 minutes to play.

With the scores tied the match became very intense, both sides were looking weary, but after a Josh Reynolds break, the Bulldogs received a penalty, converted by Inu to give the home side a 20-18 buffer.

The Bulldogs then kicked on despite the Cowboys best efforts in defence and scored two late tries, with Sam Perrett flying through the air off a cross field kick, and Barba snaring his hat-trick at the death to cap off a wonderful individual performance. Krisnan Inu maintained his perfect night with the boot to secure a 32-18 victory.

(B Barba 3, K Inu, S Perrett Tries; K Inu 6 Goals)
(K Linnett, A Winterstein, J Thurston Tries; J Thurston 3 Goals)
At ANZ Stadium, Sydney

Canterbury: B Barba, S Perrett, J Morris, K Inu, J Wright, J Reynolds, J Romelo, M Taupau, M Ennis (c), J Graham, F Pritchard, J Jackson, G Eastwood. Subs: A Tolman, D Finucane, C Payne, D Stagg.
North Queensland: M Bowen, K Fai-Fai Loa, B Tate, K Linnett, A Winterstein, J Thurston (c), M Morgan, M Scott (c), A Payne, J Tamou, G Cooper, G Hall, D Johnson. Subs: A Mitchell, R Thorby, A Sims, S Bolton.

In the NYC match the Cowboys beat the Bulldogs 30-28.

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