A Josh Morris miracle tackle in the dying minutes has saved the Bulldogs from falling to a third loss for the season, as they edged out the Warriors 16-12 on Sunday afternoon.
After Shaun Johnson broke free and skipped down the right wing with three minutes to go, the game looked headed for golden point. Morris had other ideas however, trekking across field to tackle the Warriors halfback into touch, mere inches from the tryline at Waikato Stadium.
It was a frantic end to what had been a brutal game, dominated for the majority by the Bulldogs.
A Canterbury home game, despite being played in New Zealand, the Warriors tried but ultimately failed to outmuscle the Bulldogs over 80 minutes.
Watch the NRL LIVE with a 2-week free trial.
Get the NRL Digital Pass now!
After trailing 6-4 in a first half headlined by the talented forward packs from both sides, the Bulldogs showed their class in the second stanza, producing an 81 per cent completion rate and running in 12 points to get home.
The damage might end up being more than just the loss of two competition points for the Warriors, with prop Sione Lousi going down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, with fears of a repeat ACL tear which marred his 2013 season.
Right from the kick-off there was plenty of fire in the contest, with the packs coming together in heated exchanges on several occasions.
Even the smallest player on the field, Sam Tomkins, was keen to get amongst it, going toe-to-toe with England teammate James Graham.
The Bulldogs’ game plan mirrored the one they employed in their victory over the Warriors a month ago, peppering the New Zealand side’s right-edge combination of Konrad Hurrell and Ngani Laumape.
Ben Matulino had sent the bookies into a frenzy on 12 minutes, when for the second week in a row he crossed for the opening try, barging from close range to give the Warriors a 6-0 lead.
Tony Williams was making the most of his final chance to impress NSW coach Laurie Daley ahead of Origin I, the big man breaking the line on a couple of occasions in the opening half-hour and running the crucial dummy line that lead to Mitch Brown crossing to make it 6-4 on 30.
The intense start was taking a toll on the Warriors’ big men and the visitors did well to repel several attacks on their line to lead 6-4 at the break.
A pair of schoolboy Warrior errors allowed the Bulldogs to take the lead just three minutes into the second period.
First Laumape dropped a simple pass inside his own half, before Jayson Bukuya came flying out of the line on the ensuing set, clean missing James Graham who strolled over for the easiest of tries after a nice ball from Trent Hodkinson.
Eight minutes later Manu Vatuvei delivered one of the hits of the season on Sam Perrett, which looked to have saved a certain try. But somehow Greg Eastwood found the pill in a maze of franticness and fell over the tryline.
Coming into the fixture Hodkinson was the NRL’s best goal kicker, hitting them at 87 per cent, but he missed this time to leave the lead at 14-6.
The Doggies were well and truly in control of the game heading into the final quarter, dominating yardage with their endless supply of huge human beings.
After Hodkinson booted a penalty with on 67 minutes, the Dogs endured a late scare where Ben Henry scored a try, which Johnson converted from the sideline to reduce the deficit to four going into the final five minutes.
But the Doggies did just enough to survive, winning 16-12 and retaining their spot at the top of the table heading into the representative period.Canterbury Bulldogs 16
(Brown, Graham, Eastwood tries; Hodkinson 2 goals) defeated New Zealand Warriors 12
(Matulino, Henry tries; Johnson 2 goals) at Waikato Stadium. Crowd: