The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have defeated the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium this evening (Friday) by 32-18 in a match played with finals-like intensity in front of 26,503 Members and supporters - the Dogs winning the Special Olympics Cup in the process.
The loss on the scoreboard was compounded by the sight of skipper, Greg Inglis, walking up the ANZ Stadium tunnel after the fullback was involved in an awkward looking tackle that resulted in a suspected injury to his right knee – the Test and Origin star hobbling through a set of six before leaving the field.
A frenetic opening five minutes saw the Bulldogs dominate field position early with some strong defence coupled with well-weighted strategic kicking. But it would be Souths who would get first meaningful use of the ball after being awarded a penalty that saw them string repeat sets together on the Bulldogs line.
While the men in red and green asked plenty of questions of Canterbury’s defence, the Dogs would ultimately survive the onslaught when a wayward pass went over the touch-line.
Ten minutes into proceedings, Canterbury opened the scoring when they put Souths on the back-pedal with some quick play the balls, and by the time they reached the 10 metre line, a short-side play eventually saw hooker Damien Cook cross. Trent Hodkinson converted to give the Dogs an early 6-0 lead.
Canterbury would extend the lead minutes later when an unmarked Sam Perrett took a beautiful ball cut-out pass from Hodkinson to send the Kiwi international in to score a foot in from touch. Hodkinson’s conversion would give the Bulldogs a 12 point advantage.
Souths looked to get on the board when they went back on the attack deep inside Bulldogs territory, but even more momentum from the visitors with the ball in hand saw them score another converted try through Brett Morris – Hodkinson again converting to make it 18-0 with 10 minutes in the opening half remaining.
The men in red and green proceeded to camp themselves deep inside the Bulldogs ten metre-line courtesy of a string of penalties and six-again calls that placed immense pressure on the visitors. But the wall of blue and white defence held strong while the Rabbitohs struggled in vain to come up with points.
With the first half winding down, the Bulldogs attempted a field-goal, but instead came up with four points after a bizarre chain of events saw the wayward attempt by Hodkinson chased feverishly before being batted back over the dead-ball line for Perrett to score his second.
By the end of the half, it would be the Bulldogs who would go to the break with a clear advantage not only in terms of points, but momentum.
After the break, the Bulldogs we’re dealt a momentary blow when they lost the services of James Graham under the new concussion rules – the forward returning after 10 minutes.
Fifty minutes into the match, the Rabbitohs finally managed to get on the board courtesy of a John Sutton kick down the short-side that was picked up by Bryson Goodwin to score – the try coming after a controversial call against the Bulldogs that saw possession given to Souths. Reynolds converted to narrow the gap to 22-6.
But the revival was short-lived, with Curtis Rona defying the touch-line to score millimetres in. Hodkinson’s conversion attempt was waved away, leaving the score at 26-8.
Despite the set-back, the Rabbitohs refused to give in, with Alex Johnston finding space down his flank to score. With time running out (15 and a half minutes remaining), Reynolds quickly lined up the side-line conversion and slotted it to make the score 26-12.
Thirteen minutes from full-time, Bulldogs replacement Shaun Lane grabbed a try, as Inglis walked up the tunnel with a suspected knee-injury. Hodkinson made no mistake from right in front to bring the score-board to 32-12.
The loss of Inglis saw Dylan Walker shift to fullback for the Rabbitohs, while Chris McQueen reverted to the centres to cover. Despite the re-shuffle, the Rabbitohs went on the attack, with Jason Clark picking up his second try in two weeks when the Souths Junior jumped out from dummy-half to score. Reynolds’ conversion made it 32-18 to round out the match.
Bulldogs 32 (Damien Cook, Sam Perrett 2, Brett Morris, Curtis Rona, Shaun Lane, tries; Trent Hodkinson 3 goals)
Rabbitohs 18 (Bryson Goodwin, Alex Johnston, Jason Clark, tries; Adam Reynolds 3 goals)