The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have survived a late scare to draw 28-all with the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles in the Toyota Cup at ANZ Stadium.
The Bulldogs twice held a 10 point lead inside the final 20 minutes of play only to allow Manly back into the contest on each occasion, with the visitors scoring twice inside the final three minutes of play to level things up at 28-apiece.
Kayse Greer’s second try of the night levelled things up and left Manly halfback Josh Drinkwater – who at the time had kicked four from four – with a conversion attempt after the bell to win it.
After looking good off the boot, Drinkwater’s kick veered late and hit the upright, bouncing away to leave each side going home with a point apiece.
Up until that point the Bulldogs appeared to have things under control, having recovered from a 6-nil deficit after 90 seconds after Drinkwater scored and converted almost from the kick off.
As if shocked into action Jon Sila was instrumental at the start and finish of the Bulldogs first set in possession, finding metres up the middle on the kick return before being Johnny on the spot to touch down off a spilled bomb five tackles later.
Jaline Graham nailed the extras to level things up again at 6-all after as many minutes.
Four minutes later Sila had his second and it seemed for all money like the Dogs were going to skip away, however the Sea Eagles hit back, crossing the line twice – the second time awarded after the first was disallowed – in the one set to hit the lead once again at 12-10.
The Bulldogs looked to the left once again and found the perfect antidote to the Kayse Greer try, Sila bagging his hat trick after 20 minutes to put the Dogs out to a 16-12 lead.
From there the game descended into a mistake-a-thon, with neither side able to take advantage of the few opportunities on offer.
By the time the second half rolled around it looked as if it would be the Sea Eagles that would crack the defence, holding the lion’s share of possession in good position, but ultimately without result.
It was on one such raid that the Bulldogs – and Sila – would pick up their fourth try, the winger latching onto an attacking chip kick before racing 60 metres to score in the corner.
All of a sudden a slender 16-12 buffer had been converted into 10 points and the Bulldogs appeared home.
However their opponents were full of confidence having broken their duck for the season in round seven against the Gold Coast, and they came again with Jake Trbojevic scoring wide out for Drinkwater to convert, narrowing the gap to four points once again.
When Bulldogs captain Moses Mbye crossed next to the posts with five minutes to go the Bulldogs looked to once again have it in the bag, only to see Manly once again fight their way back into it with Nathan Cooper finishing off a well worked backline move to score.
Again Drinkwater added the extras, narrowing the gap to four once more at 28-24.
A Manly kick at the end of the next set gave the Bulldogs the opportunity to close it out, however Sila turned from hero to villain by spilling the catch into touch, handing the Sea Eagles a scrum feed 20 metres out from the Dogs line.
At the end of the set Greer went in, leaving a group of very worried Bulldogs to watch – and ultimately breathe a sigh of relief – as Drinkwater’s radar deserted him for the first and only time in the match.
Bulldogs 28: John Sila 4, Moses Mbye tries; Jaline Graham 4 goals from 5 attempts
Manly 28: Kayse Greer 2, Josh Drinkwater, Jake Trbojevic, Nathan Cooper tries; Josh Drinkwater 4 goals from 5 attempts