Bulldogs triumph over Souths in blockbuster clash
Canterbury have saved their best until last to lift the Special Olympics Cup at the end of a pulsating 23-18 victory over South Sydney at ANZ Stadium.by NRL
Canterbury have saved their best until last to lift the Special Olympics Cup at the end of a pulsating 23-18 victory over South Sydney at ANZ Stadium.
In a match some pundits are calling the game of the year, a Krisnan Inu field goal edged the Bulldogs ahead 19-18 five minutes from full time, however it was far from the end of what was a gripping contest.
Sam Burgess turned from villain to hero when he sent Dylan Farrell on the course for the line soon after - only for the centre to be nudged into touch at the line by a match winning effort from Ben Barba.
Then Inu and David Stagg combined to send the lock in for the match winner, sealing a 23-18 result.
"As a spectacle it was exciting," Bulldogs coach Des Hasler said after the match. "(It was) pretty tense. There's no way we'll knock back the four points.
"We showed some fighting qualities that we were very proud of. It was a good win for us tonight."
Barba's effort to nudge Farrell - who'd already crossed for a try to return the scores to level 13 minutes into the second half - earned him special praise from his coach.
"It was special," Hasler said. "It's a big part of his game that he's worked on, and improved on. It was a real intelligent play from Benny, and one that we needed."
The Bulldogs found themselves under the pump early as Souths looked every part a side enjoying its best winning streak in 23 years.
Souths cut the Bulldogs defence wide open in just the third minute of play, with Burgess and John Sutton combining to put Justin Hunt over in the corner for a very early 4-nil lead.
The Bulldogs were being forced to play entirely out of their own half and that pressure told again on the quarter hour, when Dave Taylor steamrolled through the first line of defence before stepping Ben Barba to touch down under the posts.
"They're that sort of side, they've got that physicality," Hasler said of Souths start to the match. "They've got the size and the bump, and the pace. We didn't help ourselves with costly turnovers and field position. I thought we legged them down the field a bit with penalties. But we held in there.
"For the first 25-30 minutes I can't remember us being in their 20. But once we got a bit of possession and field position, we were able to get into our shape and post some tries."
In the end it was back to back penalties - one to Souths, one to the Bulldogs - which swung momentum the Bulldogs way.
On the wrong end of a 4-nil penalty count over the opening 25 minutes of the half, the Bulldogs went 12-nil down after Adam Reynolds nailed a penalty goal from in front.
But from the ensuing kick off momentum swung back the Bulldogs way, as a mix up in the in goal followed immediately by a penalty against Sam Burgess for an elbow on James Graham gave the Bulldogs field position.
By the end of the set they were on the board, Inu crossing for his third try in 90 minutes of football off a neatly worked set play.
The winger then converted to narrow the gap to six points.
Another penalty and another try quickly followed and all of a sudden the match was back on a level footing, Jonathan Wright reaching out to touch down after the Bulldogs were piggy backed deep into Souths territory after Burgess was penalised in the tackle.
Now it was Souths who were forced to play in their own half and four minutes out from the break they found themselves trailing for the first time in the match.
Probing deep in Souths territory Josh Reynolds aimed a pin point accurate kick at the opposition posts, with Barba right on the spot to claim a deflection off Souths skipper Michael Crocker to touch down for an 18-12 half time lead.
The Bulldogs bench came into play to start the second half, with former Toyota Cup captain Dale Finucane earning his NRL debut soon after the break followed by the introduction of Marty Taupau into NRL action for only the second time this season.
His return was marred by a high shot on the ground on John Sutton, which was followed soon after by the Farrell try, which locked the game up at 18-all.
The Dogs looked more dangerous over the coming minutes, but were unable to convert two clear chances as the attrition of the high tempo, high impact game started to show on both sides.
Cue Inu, who stepped up to nail his admittedly low-trajectory field goal in the 75th minute of play.
While it was far from the final highlight, the narrowness of the margin it earned painted a picture of a game in which both sides had genuine claims to the two points.
The Bulldogs will enjoy a round 14 bye before a Friday night away clash against St. George-Illawarra in round 15. They'll be hopeful of the services of Frank Pritchard, who left the field early with an ankle injury, however they're likely to be without Tim Lafai after he suffered a dislocated shoulder late in the piece.
Canterbury-Bankstown 23: Krisnan Inu, Jonathan Wright, Ben Barba, David Stagg tries; Krisnan Inu 3 goals from 4 attempts, field goal.
South Sydney 18: Justin Hunt, Dave Taylor, Dylan Farrell tries; Adam Reynolds 3 goals from 4 attempts.
At ANZ Stadium
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