Bulldogs defy injuries to down Raiders
An impressive second half from an injury-hit Bulldogs outfit has helped them surge home 16-10 against a woeful Raiders side at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
The Dogs lost skipper James Graham (concussion) very early and five-eighth Josh Reynolds (hamstring) just before half-time to an injury that could keep him sidelined for some time.
Despite playing out the game with 15 on 17 and starting the second half 10-4 behind, the Dogs ran roughshod over a truly lacklustre Canberra team that forgot how to tackle and played with little intent or creativity.
The usually potent right edge of Joey Leilua, Jordan Rapana, Elliott Whitehead and Blake Austin was not only non-existent in attack but diabolical in defence, letting in all three Canterbury tries.
Canterbury welcomed back Will Hopoate from a facial fracture and the former Manly and Eels back was immense, running for a monstrous 308 metres with nine tackle busts, a try assist and scarcely believable six offloads.
Back-rower Adam Elliott was promoted to the starting and justified his coach's faith with two tries. Other than another bright performance from rookie winger Nic Cotric there was little to be happy about for Canberra fans.
Things looked rosy early for the home side when Elliott strolled through some soft defence from Blake Austin in just the fifth minute and they looked set to score a second but for a match-swinging intercept play from Cotric.
Canberra didn't score from that play but scored a long-range try a few minutes later when Aidan Sezer put Josh Papalii into space for a supporting Jarrod Croker to score.
Another line break from Cotric – this time from a kick return – just past the half-hour mark scattered the Dogs defence and a couple of quick play-the-balls and dummy-half scoots later Josh Hodgson glided over.
The injury toll continued to mount in the lead-up to half-time as Elliott Whitehead (HIA check) left the field and Brett Morris (shoulder) stayed down hurt but played on.
Elliott returned to start the second half but it did little to steady the Raiders' leaky right-edge defence as a reinvigorated Dogs side put them under the blowtorch.
Despite it being 17 on 15 it was the undermanned Bulldogs with all the running in the second half and Josh Morris wrong-footed his opposite number Joey Leilua to even the scores just five minutes in.
The Raiders' right edge problems got worse 15 minutes later when Elliott bagged his first career double, slicing between Leilua and Austin from a nice Hopoate short ball.
The final 20 minutes were marked by increasingly frantic Canberra errors as they searched for the try that would level the scores but a mounting error toll and sluggish defence hurt their chances and there was no further addition to the 16-10 scorecard.
Canterbury Bulldogs 16 (Elliott 2, J Morris tries; Holland 2 goals) defeated Canberra Raiders 10 (Croker, Hodgson tries; Croker goal) at ANZ Stadium. Half time: Raiders 10-4. Crowd: 13,390.