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Bulldogs grind out fifth straight win

Dodgy pacemakers and full-time deadlines be damned: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Clearly the Bulldogs are a fan of the old adage, much to the chagrin of any fans with questionable tickers and copywriters with match reports due on the siren, pulling home for yet another thrilling win as they downed an inspired Knights outfit 16-12 at ANZ Stadium.

Despite a disjointed attacking performance and an opposition inspired by the presence of injured forward Alex McKinnon, the Bulldogs again kept their fans and coach Des Hasler on edge by pulling a fourth consecutive match from the fire, though this time the match-winning play came with the fat lady warming up the pipes rather than hitting her final notes.

While a 72nd-minute try from Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman ultimately proved the match winner, as in the previous four weeks the final seconds of the win were not without suspense nor controversy as the Knights rallied for one last assault on the competition leaders' line.

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Newcastle's final fling came off the back of a penalty awarded after centre Joey Leilua was ruled to have been forced into touch by a second effort and a melee erupted, but the Dogs held out to exact revenge over the side that knocked them out of the premiership race last September.

Earlier Moses Mbye, a late call-up for centre Tim Lafai (concussion) almost kicked off his long-anticipated top-grade debut with a try in just his sixth minute of first-grade as he was held up over the line by desperate Knights defence.

The visitors' relief at keeping the youngster out proved to be short lived, as winger Mitch Brown crossed just a minute later after a spectacular flying leap by Josh Reynolds. The plucky five-eighth claimed a bomb from halves partner Trent Hodkinson, before tapping the ball down to Josh Jackson, who showed good hands to send an unmarked Brown over in the right corner.

It was the Dogs who controlled the tempo during opening quarter of the match through the in-form kicking games of their halves and a series of probing dummy half runs from rejuvenated skipper Michael Ennis. Yet it was the Knights who were next to get themselves across the line with 23 minutes gone, with a play deserving of more than just the regulation four points.

Running the ball on the last from 30 metres, out the Knights caught the home side's defence napping through Jarrod Mullen, who found space behind the ruck before a series of quick hands and no-look passes from the next play gave winger James McManus a half chance in the right corner.

With plenty of work to do the NSW flanker put the head down and the posterior up and muscled his way through defenders to touch down just inches inside the corner post, though halfback Tyrone Roberts failure to add the extras from out wide left the scores level at four apiece after the entertaining early exchanges.

With an opening meat pie in the stomach and a bit of confidence under their the belts, the Knights proceeded to set up camp in the Bulldogs half, with Mullen again splitting the defence with a scything run on the fifth tackle and a number of offensive forays keeping the defence honest.

Despite being starved of possession and lacking the fluency in attack seen so far this season, it was the Bulldogs next across the stripe in the 38th minute. Hulking second-rower Tony Williams made short work of an attempted tackle from Mullen to break into the backfield and put none other than big Sam Kasiano, all 122 kilos of him, under the posts to break the deadlock and send the Bulldogs to half-time up 10-4.

The second half got off to the worst possible start for the Novocastrians, as they sent the opening kick off sailing over the dead-ball line to give the Bulldogs premium attacking real estate. They were lucky to survive as Bulldogs winger Corey Thompson's best Superman impersonation in planting the ball for his side's third try came down on the touch in-goal line.

Taking heed of the experience, the Knights worked their way back into more agreeable territory and found reward for some ad-lib play through second-rower Robbie Rochow, who stepped his way through the disjointed Bulldogs defence from close range to again bring the scores level in the 48th minute.

A successful penalty goal from Roberts five minutes later put the Knights in front for the first time and they withstood repeated barrages from the Bulldogs as the second half wore on, though many of the opportunities were gifted to the home side through poor kicking and silly penalties.

Tolman proved Johnny on the spot with 10 minutes to go after a bat-down from on high by Corey Thompson found the workhorse forward unmarked to give the Bulldogs their third try of a low-scoring contest. Trent Hodkinson's conversion put the Bulldogs up 16-12 with the clock winding down.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 ( M Brown, S Kasiano, A Tolman tries; Hodkinson 2 goals) defeated Newcastle Knights 12 (J McManus tries, R Rochow ; Roberts 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Crowd: 15,286

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