Bulldogs steal late victory
Kerrod Holland has shown nerves of steel on debut to slot a conversion after the siren to guide the Bulldogs to a thrilling 18-16 win over the Penrith Panthers at Pepper Stadium.
The 23-year-old rookie nailed the kick from 15 metres in from the sidelines to help the Bulldogs overturn an early 14 point deficit and make it back-to-back wins to start the season.
The result is eerily similar to the 18-16 result at the same venue in Round 3, 2014, when Matt Moylan kicked an 80th minute sideline conversion to seal a famous win.
A Jamie Soward kicking masterclass had earlier looked to have helped the Penrith Panthers to their first win of 2016 against a Canterbury side that will be sweating on the availability of their starting front-rowers next week.
The 2010 premiership-winner turned back the clock – and the Bulldogs forwards – forcing four line dropouts and regularly finding the grass with his long kicking game in a Penrith side that was vastly different to the one named on Tuesday.
Bulldogs skipper James Graham was put on report for a shoulder charge on Reagan Campbell-Gillard in the 20th minute, only moments after Aiden Tolman was forced from the field with a head-knock.
Craig Garvey was a defensive beast in his first game for the Bulldogs, racking up 63 tackles in an 80 minute performance that shows the club is more than able to cover the loss of Michael Lichaa.
The game couldn't have started any better for the home side, with a crunching hit from Campbell-Gillard forcing an error from Tolman, before Soward pinned the Dogs inside their own in goal for the first dropout of the night.
The Panthers made the most of their early possession, with Peta Hiku scoring his second try in as many games off a pinpoint Soward grubber.
A penalty late in the count put the Panthers back on the attack, and they took full advantage of the invitation with big Sam McKendry fighting his way through three would-be defenders to touch down under the posts.
Tolman's departure after 17 minutes allowed David Klemmer to come on for his first taste of action in 2016, but the built up tension got the better of him, conceding a penalty with his first tackle of the night.
A Jamie Soward penalty goal moments later made it 14-0, following Graham's shoulder charge on Campbell-Gillard.
The Bulldogs survived another attacking raid after sending the kick-off out on the full, before immediately hitting back through incumbent fullback Will Hopoate.
Some terrific play in the lead-up from Sam Kasiano and Moses Mbye combined to put the former Eels into space, and the new recruit had enough momentum to slide over the line with several defenders still on him.
The Bulldogs had their chances late in the second-half, but couldn't come up with the right play at the crunch moment, while at the other end, Soward continued to have the ball on a string, forcing another pair of repeat sets.
There were scary signs for Bulldogs fans when Josh Reynolds stayed down after a bruising tackle from a Dean Whare tackle, but the Canterbury five-eighth was able to continue.
The Bulldogs were almost in more pain when a Peter Wallace cross-field kick out of dummy-half was grounded by Josh Mansour, but the Bunker ruled the winger was offside after the ball came in contact with Hiku's head.
Reynolds's rapid recovery proved telling, as the man affectionately known as 'Grub' sliced through some tired Penrith defenders before being cut down short of the line. From the next play, Hopoate repaid Mbye's earlier generosity to set up his halfback for a try on the hour-mark.
The Bulldogs fought hard to get back in the contest but were denied time and time again by the Penrith defence, with Holland, and then Sam Perrett dragged over the sideline in the final 10 minutes.
Then, with just 12 seconds left on the clock, Mbye split the seas for the second time to break Penrith hearts and spoil the club's 50th birthday celebrations with a try right on fulltime.
Holland's clutch conversion on debut sealed a famous win.
Bulldogs 18 (Moses Mbye 2, Will Hopoate tries; Kerrod Holland 2, Moses Mbye goals) defeated Penrith Panthers 16 (Peta Hiku, Sam McKendry; Soward 4 goals) at Pepper Stadium. Penalties: 8-8. Half-time: Panthers 14-6. Crowd: 11,125. On report: James Graham (Bulldogs)