The defence of the Canterbury Bulldogs has secured an Intrust Super Premiership NSW finals position that looked incredibly unlikely at the start of the season.
It was a determined and gutsy effort by both sides, with the low score-line a true representation of the defensive prowess shown.
The game went down to the wire, and a controversial offside call in the dying minutes turned out to be the last North Sydney Bears play of 2016.
Both sides had scoring opportunities at the start of the match, in a game that started with a very end-to-end style.
The Bulldogs dropped the ball over the line, and had a potential Jarrod McInally try denied through obstruction, while the Bears could not capitalise on consecutive sets.
Latrell Robinson pulled off an amazing play at the 20-minute mark while retrieving a Bulldogs grubber. He collected the ball very close to the sideline, back-tracked into the in-goal area to seemingly get pushed out, but he ducked and weaved through the defenders to make a 30-metre run.
After half-an-hour of play, the Bulldogs finally got the scoreboard ticking when Harrison Siejka decided to run the ball on the last tackle, and have a beautiful short-ball to McInally, who crashed over.
Siosifa Talakai copped a bad knock in a tackle, and after a small delay, was assisted off the field to do a concussion test, however his return would seem close to impossible.
Off the back of a drop-out, the Bulldogs threaded a neat grubber behind the posts, and a small error at the back was all Adam Elliott needed to jump on the board and extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 10-0.
The Bears responded shortly after a counter-attack raid, as prolific try-scorer and Josh Mansour look-a-like Abbas Miski replicated the Origin winger’s finishing ability, with a beautiful dive to touchdown in the right corner.
The Bears have had their fair share of close encounters this year, and despite trailing by six, when they received a penalty in front of the posts; they took the two points on offer.
Call it determined defence or a complete brain-snap, but the Bulldogs were penalised off the kick-off for an obvious shoulder charge, which gifted the Bears some valuable metres.
A mistake gave possession away, but the Bears continued to show desperation in a bid to keep their season alive.
In the final minute of play, Brad Dietz put a smart grubber down the middle of the field, and a North Sydney chaser won the race and scored the try.
North Sydney Oval erupted at the thought the scores were locked up at 10-all, but the chaser was ruled offside.
It was a dramatic ending to an absolute thriller, but the Bulldogs held on for a gutsy win to secure their spot in the finals.
This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au.