THE Bulldogs have continued their impressive start to the 2009 season after overcoming a horror opening section to run down Canberra 30-20 in a thrilling tussle at Canberra Stadium.
Down 12-0 early, the visitors were lucky to escape a 50-50 call in the lead-up to what would have been the Raiders’ third try when video referee Phil Cooley ruled that Josh McCrone had knocked on.
But having barely had a sniff of the opposition tryline, the Bulldogs launched a sudden and remarkable assault on the home side to take an 18-16 lead into the half-time break.
It began with a Ben Roberts break down the left side that saw centre Darryl Millard somehow plant the ball over the line despite having four defenders surrounding him.
Prop Ben Hannant then crossed between the posts untouched after Michael Ennis’ cut-out pass from dummy-half left Canberra’s goal-line defence in a daze.
And Bryson Goodwin’s late first-half try out wide – complemented by the customary Hazem El Masri sideline conversion – saw the Bulldogs creep ahead for the first time.
The second half proved a much tougher affair with neither side adding to their tallies for the opening 23 minutes and it took another crafty piece of work from NSW Origin aspirant Ennis – who dummied and crashed over a little too easily – to finally break the shackles.
Still, an Alan Tongue solo effort with 12 minutes remaining kept the crowd on their toes, but unlike last year – when the Bulldogs managed to turn losing into an art form – they rarely let an opportunity slip these days and sealed the deal in the final minute when El Masri pounced on a grubber to score between the posts.
The Game Swung When… Josh McCrone was ruled to have knocked on in the lead-up to a try that would have given Canberra an 18-0 lead within the opening 20 minutes.
McCrone grubbered through for himself and was first to the ball as he knocked it back for Terry Campese, who kicked the ball cross-field off the ground and into the arms of Monaghan.
Cooley, however, ruled that McCrone’s knock-down had travelled forward first and the try was disallowed.
Just minutes later the Bulldogs scored down the opposite end and the game was back on as a contest.
Who Was Hot… Bulldogs prop Ben Hannant was a machine for the Bulldogs up front, scoring a try, making 43 tackles, 18 hit-ups and running for 156 metres.
Michael Ennis was also in the thick of the action as he scored one try, set up another and kicked a superb 40/20 in his side’s thrilling comeback win.
As usual, Terry Campese was a standout for Canberra with a stunning 456 metres from kicks while Joel Monaghan looked dangerous out wide whenever he touched the football.
Who Was Not… Canberra’s goal-line defence needs some attention after they were cracked far too easily on a number of occasions.
Darryl Millard had no right to score the opening try with four defenders hanging off him but worse was to come as Bulldogs prop Ben Hannant scored untouched between the posts from two metres out and Michael Ennis crossed with ease from dummy-half in the second half.
At 12-0 ahead and on home soil, the game was there for Canberra’s keeping.
Had To Be Seen To Be Believed… In the end it was ruled a no-try but that didn’t take away from the remarkable piece of play that saw Joel Monaghan cross for what would have been his second four-pointer of the afternoon.
McCrone knocked the ball down for Terry Campese as he narrowly won the race for the ball but rather than scoop up the dregs, the Raiders’ five-eighth opted to kick the ball across-field soccer-style.
Remarkably it even found its mark in Monaghan who produced a superb running low catch before out-sprinting the opposition to the tryline.
Bad Boys… Bulldogs rake Michael Ennis will miss a week after being charged with dangerous contact for a ‘chicken-wing’ tackle on Raiders fullback Josh Dugan. And Raiders prop Tom Leahroyd-Lahrs is staring at a week on the sidelines after he led with his forearm in attack on Jamal Idris.
Ref Watch… Phil Cooley’s decision to rule no-try against the Raiders and a probably 18-0 lead will no doubt be scrutinised by referees boss Robert Finch although an argument could be made either way. Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore was highly critical of the number of penalties awarded against his side by referees Chris James and Ashley Klein.
NRL.com Best & Fairest… 3 points – Ben Hannant (Bulldogs): Worked tirelessly for the Bulldogs, notching 43 tackles and 18 hit-ups to go with his 156 metres. Also scored a crucial try; 2 points – Michael Ennis (Bulldogs): Tormented Canberra from dummy-half with a series of huge plays and a solo try midway through the second half; 1 point – Terry Campese (Raiders): His kicking game was at the centre of Canberra’s early dominance as he booted his way to a massive 494-metre gain through the afternoon.
Bulldogs 30 (D Millard, B Hannant, B Goodwin, M Ennis, H El Masri tries; El Masri 5 goals) def Canberra 20 (J Monaghan, T Thompson, A Tongue, A Purtell tries; J Dugan 2 goals) at Canberra Stadium. Crowd: 10,241.