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A brilliant late try to fullback Ben Barba secured Canterbury a 20-12 win over Manly at Brookvale Oval in Round 20.
As injured Sea Eagles star Brett Stewart watched from the sidelines Barba fashioned an audacious try for himself (his second of the night) with a grubber kick aimed at the goalposts that ensured the visitors would leave with the competition points after the clash hung in the balance with 20 minutes left on the clock.
The opening exchanges were all Canterbury however, with the blue and whites racing to a 12-nil lead through tries to Barba (ninth minute) and winger Sam Perrett (15th minute) that rocked the home side and its fans back on their heels. Perrett’s try in particular seemed to suggest the blue and whites were well in control – it came from a set play from a scrum 20 metres out, with five-eighth Josh Reynolds chipping wide for right winger Perrett who blindsided his surprised opposition with a determined chase, catch and put-down.
The Brookvale faithful’s misery intensified when Krisnan Inu piloted home a penalty goal for a 14-nil advantage in the 46th minute.
However, that seemed to spur the home side, with co-captain Jamie Lyon sneaking under Barba’s guard to score a crucial try after a determined chase of Daly Cherry-Evans’ plugging kick from 25 metres out for a 14-6 score-line after 50 minutes.
And it was game on when fellow co-captain Jason King charged over right of the goalposts to bridge the gap to two points with 20 minutes remaining.
However, Barba’s try two minutes from the fulltime siren ensured a 2012 ledger that read Canterbury/Des Hasler 1, Manly/Geoff Toovey 1.
Frank Pritchard was a standout for the Bulldogs with 127 running metres, while prop Aiden Tolman made a whopping 23 hit-ups for 184 metres.
Stand-in fullback Dean Whare made 177 metres for the beaten side, while winger Jorge Taufua continued his meteoric rookie season with a 185-metre gain.
It was a disappointing result for the premiers given they shaded their opponents 4-1 in line-breaks.