Bulldogs pounce late to tame Tigers
The Bulldogs have held off a spirited Wests Tigers side to hang on for a tense 32-22 win at ANZ Stadium to consolidate their place in the Telstra Premiership top four.
Expected by most to win by plenty against a team missing James Tedesco, Aaron Woods and Robbie Farah, the blue and whites were forced to dig deep in a match they trailed in up until the 64th minute.
Bulldogs winger Brett Morris continued his dream return from injury with another double to take his tally to seven tries from three matches while Aiden Tolman managed 203 metres and 41 tackles in a powerful 80-minute showing.
The Tigers might have lost the match but they gained plenty of admirers after they held their own against their more-fancied rivals for the first 60 minutes, but were eventually overrun by the physical Bulldogs pack.
It's a match they'll look back on as one they could have won after they led by six points midway through the second stanza and could have easily been ahead by 12 had fullback Jordan Rankin not bombed a try in the 46th minute.
The Tigers couldn't have asked for a better start as Luke Brooks shifted play back to the middle on the last tackle for halves partner Mitch Moses to grubber through for Kevin Naiqama to score after four minutes.
Naiqama then saved a try at the other end, somehow stopping Morris from scoring with a desperate cover tackle.
There was nothing he could do two minutes later as Greg Eastwood sent Morris into space with a pass any halfback would have been proud of, and fittingly, Bulldogs No.7 Moses Mbye was there in support to finish off the movement.
With the game racing along at a frenetic early pace, the Tigers settled things down with a gift two points to make it 8-4 after 20 minutes.
There would only be three minutes of respite as Josh Addo-Carr cranked it up several gears with a blistering 90-metre effort down a narrow short side before torching Will Hopoate to score under the posts.
Any thoughts of a Tigers upset win were quickly extinguished as Bulldogs behemoth Sam Kasiano entered the fray to turn the game on its head by setting up two tries in the space of three minutes to give the blue and whites the lead.
The giant prop featured heavily as an attempted intercept by Naiqama ended up in the hands of Josh Morris who set up his brother for his sixth try in just three games.
From the very next set, Kasiano attracted several defenders before popping a late offload to Josh Reynolds who linked up with Hopoate to dive score under the sticks.
With momentum against them, the Tigers managed to head into the sheds all square via another Moses penalty goal after the five-eighth was collected late by James Graham.
Just like the first half, it took only four minutes for the black and golds to score after the break, with debutant Jacob Liddle finishing off some quick hands from Elijah Taylor to dive over in his first game in the NRL.
It should have been 28-16 a minute later who Tim Simona broke into the clear and kicked back infield for an unmarked Jordan Rankin, only for the fill-in fullback to drop it cold with the line wide open.
The Bulldogs almost levelled things up through Tolman after he scored off what looked like an inadvertent field goal from Reynolds, only for the try to be disallowed because Curtis Rona was offside.
There was more bunker intervention shortly after with the live decision of a Brett Morris try overturned after some more Naiqama heroics in defence, but the try-scoring talisman got his revenge two players to crash over in the corner.
Jealous of all the action on the other side of the field, Bulldogs centre Curtis Rona then clicked into gear, stepping off his right foot to cut back on the inside to claim his 10th try of the season and give his side the lead.
Rona then turned provider in the final minute to send Sam Perrett over for a try in his 251st NRL game to seal the 10-point victory.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 32 (Brett Morris 2, Moses Mbye, Will Hopoate, Curtis Rona, Sam Perrett tries; Moses Mbye 4 goals) defeated Wests Tigers 22 (Kevin Naiqama, Josh Addo-Carr, Jacob Liddle tries; Mitch Moses 5 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: 16-all. Crowd: 16,212.