Bulldogs pounce to tame Tigers
The hot and cold Bulldogs were at their scorching best on Sunday afternoon as they bullied their way past an injury-ravaged Wests Tigers side 36-4 at ANZ Stadium.
There were scary scenes in the 23rd minute when Tigers hooker Robbie Farah was stretchered from the field after his head collided with Josh Reynolds' hip before slamming into the ANZ Stadium turf as he went to the ground.
The State of Origin representative was taken to hospital but early reports from the Tigers were that the 32-year-old was conscious and moving.
Bulldogs skipper James Graham celebrated his 100th NRL game with a typically busy performance running for 167 metres and making 38 tackles while David Klemmer ran for a whopping 204 metres.
For the second straight game the Tigers were dealt a blow in the warm-up with Sauaso Sue succumbing to a rib injury to be replaced by Curtis Sironen.
That capped a major reshuffle that saw several players – including returning skipper Aaron Woods – drop back to the bench, with Sironen himself actually dropping out of the 17 before the injury.
It didn't take long for the Bulldogs to strike with the blue and whites taking full advantage of an attacking scrum from close range to send winger Curtis Rona over for his fifth try of the season.
The Tigers were dealt another blow soon after with centre Tim Simona forced from the field for a concussion test – he would later return – and things got even worse as Canterbury doubled their lead courtesy of some wonderful hands down the right that ended with incumbent fullback Sam Perrett touching down under the posts.
Things could have been even worse when halfback Moses Mbye broke free down the left only for the final pass to be fumbled by Rona.
The Tigers failed to heed that warning and found themselves down by 16 moments later when a Chris Lawrence error was punished by Tyrone Phillips; the winger racing away to register his first career try in the NRL after being dragged down in similar circumstances while playing for Fiji last week.
Nothing seemed to be going right for the black and golds as a spectacular Mitchell Moses interception led to an error rather than points.
That break did momentarily swing momentum in their favour and the Tigers five-eighth made up for his mistake shortly after, racing on to a tip on from Aaron Woods to cross out wide.
It took just six minutes for the Bulldogs to respond however, with Josh Morris pressing claims to retain his NSW Blues Origin jersey with a terrific move to make it 20-4 at the break.
Moments earlier Mbye had broken clear again only to be collected high by Tigers fullback Justin Hunt. The Bulldogs halfback was taken off for a concussion test while Hunt was placed on report for the 'coat hanger'.
Any hopes of a comeback were vanquished 12 minutes into the second half as a lofted pass from Perrett sent Rona in to complete his double and make it a 20-point game.
That threatened to be the only points of the second stanza until an exquisite touch pass back on the inside from James Graham released Perrett who drew in Hunt before sending Craig Garvey away for the play of the game 10 minutes from time.
That's how the game looked destined to finish until some lovely work from Perrett – who was deputising at fullback – put away Josh Reynolds for a try seconds before the final whistle to confirm his status as a high-class custodian.
The win moves the Bulldogs to within two points of the fourth-placed Cowboys ahead of their blockbuster showdown with the Roosters next Sunday.
The Tigers were far from their best, but in some positive news Aaron Woods made a successful return to first grade with 142 metres and 37 tackles in a 50-minute stint while new recruit Elijah Taylor made 45 tackles and had some nice touches in attack.
Bulldogs 36 (Curtis Rona 2, Sam Perrett, Tyrone Phillips, Josh Morris, Craig Garvey, Josh Morris tries; Kerrod Holland 4 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 4 (Mitchell Moses try; Jordan Rankin goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: 20-4 Bulldogs. Crowd: 20,936. On report: Justin Hunt (Tigers).