Fullback Ben Barba ran riot to cross for four tries as Canterbury defeated Canberra 36-22 at ANZ Stadium in Round 26 last season.
Barba’s final four-pointer four minutes from fulltime saw him draw level with South Sydney’s Nathan Merritt to become the equal leading try-scorers for 2011 with 23 apiece.
It was a bittersweet victory for the ’Dogs who finished the scheduled rounds on 28 competition points alongside eighth-placed Newcastle, but missed a spot in the finals series due to a vastly inferior differential (75 points the final difference).
However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Canterbury who trailed the Raiders 12-8 at the break and went six points further behind when Josh McCrone scored off a bomb with half an hour remaining. From that point on though it was mostly all blue and white, with Barba crossing for two tries in the space of 60 seconds for a 20-18 lead with 54 minutes gone.
Retiring Bulldogs captain Andrew ‘Bobcat’ Ryan earned a huge cheer from the crowd when he crossed for a try in the 65th minute – then sprinted behind the in-goal and jumped into a Bobcat the Canterbury marketing department had arranged to be displayed as a symbol of his final NRL game.
The emotion of that moment seemed to sap the Bulldogs of their energy levels, with Raiders winger Reece Robinson crossing for a soft try on the left edge to make it 26-22 with nine minutes remaining.
However Barba put the issue beyond doubt when he scored his fourth try of the afternoon off an assist from Jamal Idris down the right edge (it was one of the dreadlocked star’s final touches in a Canterbury jersey), before Josh Morris rubbed salt into the wound with a 90-metre intercept try one minute from fulltime.
While Andrew Ryan exited the NRL a winner unfortunately the same could not be said for veteran Canberra captain Alan Tongue who similarly played his last first grade game.