The Wests Tigers might have let their chance of finals football slip from their grasp, when they folded against a highly determined Canterbury Bulldogs side 16-4 on Friday night at ANZ Stadium.
In a low-scoring contest, all eyes were on the Tigers, who needed to win to keep their top eight aspirations firmly alive following Brisbane's close 12-10 win over Cronulla 24 hours earlier.
But it was a free-flowing Bulldogs outfit that impressed and were far more enthusiastic against their rivals. Their commitment in defence was a stand-out.
Wests Tigers lock Elijah Taylor produced an odd passage of play to throw the ball off the ground despite being tackled by two defenders – summing up the distracted mindset of the visitors throughout the evening.
Canterbury could only salvage a try to lead 6-0 at the break, but the lead was enough for a side who is looking to avoid a second wooden spoon in a decade.
Match: Bulldogs v Wests Tigers
Round 20 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium
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Kerrod Holland charged onto a Michael Lichaa short ball to bust past Kevin Naiqama and Moses Mbye on the right edge in the 14th minute.
Neither side were able to create enough in attack with both sets of defence strong enough to hold out most raids with ease.
The Bulldogs were handed a piece of luck after halftime with a Mbye grubber kick deemed to have gone into touch despite replays suggesting Bulldogs fullback Will Hopoate helped the ball hit the corner post with a stray foot.
Canterbury went 90 metres in the ensuing set and kicked a penalty goal right in front of sticks to extend the lead out to 8-0.
Many were expecting a fightback from the Tigers but it was Canterbury who went further in front 12 minutes later with a set play involving Josh Jackson and Will Hopoate coming off brilliantly to send Holland over for a double.
The Tigers finally got on the board through Esan Marsters down the right edge 15 minutes remaining, and looked to threaten late until a strong defensive play from Lachlan Lewis killed off any chance of a comeback.
Bulldogs back-rower Rhyse Martin slotted a sideline penalty goal late in the game to cap off the upset win.
News & Notes: Brothers Jeremy Marshall-King and Benji Marshall met for the second time this year after the round 12 clash [Tigers won 14-10] ... Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma played his 100th game in the NRL ... The Bulldogs have been first try scorers in 13 of their 19 games...Moses Mbye left the field late in the game for a HIA assessment ... Canterbury are back at ANZ Stadium next weekend to face the Broncos, while the Tigers head to the Hunter and the Newcastle Knights.Crowd: 9,865.