The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have won a 30-22 thriller over the North Sydney Bears on a wet afternoon at Belmore Oval.
Trailing by six at halftime, the Bulldogs put in a strong second-half performance inspired by halves pairing Matt Frawley and Lindon McGrady, as well as Dane Chisholm off the bench.
The Bears put in a brave effort as they had better ball control than the Bulldogs in extremely wet conditions, despite trailing on the scoreboard at full time.
A conservative opening 10 minutes to the game saw some strong opening defensive performances by both sides.
The first try came from no defensive mistake but a handling error by Bears winger Sam Manuleleua who couldn’t hold onto the ball while trying to retrieve a grubber in the in-goal area. The Bulldogs pounced on the loose ball and Levi Dodd converted the try.
The defence was broken in the 21st minute when Frawley made a linebreak and gave it off for Shaun Lane to score for a 10-0 lead.
Manuleleua made up for his error by putting an enormous hit on a Bulldogs ball carrier in the 25th minute to force the ball loose. On the back of that, he showed speed and skill to score a wonderful try in the corner. Nikko Roberts’ conversion from the sideline dramatically found its way through after it hit both uprights.
In the 33rd minute Roberts stepped through the defence to score a solo try adjacent to the posts and converted it to give the Bears the lead.
The Bears increased the buffer three minutes later when Brock Gray picked up a kick that deflected off the Bulldogs and passed to Manuleleua who crossed for his second try.
It was 16-10 to the Bears going into halftime after the conversion was unsuccessful.
The Bulldogs began their second-half domination just four minutes in when Tautalatasi Tasi strolled over in the right corner courtesy of a McGrady pass to trail 16-14 after the conversion was missed.
Dodd stole the lead from the Bears in the 52nd minute when he scored in the left corner after a pass from Frawley. Damien Cook took over the kicking duties but missed the goal.
The Bears never gave up and were on the attack on many occasions with creative efforts by Roberts and hooker Cameron McInnes being strong out of dummy half.
When they were on the attack in the 65th minute however, Tyrone Phillips took advantage of a wayward pass to Manuleleua who picked up the ball and ran a fair distance to score. Chisholm was the Bulldogs’ third kicker of the day and converted the try to make it 24-16.
The Bears hit straight back when Roberts put an optimistic chip kick through and Brock Gray re-gathered to score under the posts for a great try. Roberts added the extra two points and it was back to 24-22.
With four minutes remaining and only two points separating the sides, Chisholm kicked an exceptional and important 40/20, which led to the match-winning try by Lane who muscled his way over for his second try of the day. Chisholm converted and the score stayed at 30-22.
Both sides put on an entertaining display in what was a physical encounter in a rain-affected match.
The Bulldogs will play the Wentworthville Magpies at Pirtek Stadium next week in an attempt to move into the top 4 while the Bears will be hoping to get off the bottom of the ladder when they host the Newtown Jets at North Sydney Oval next Sunday.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 30 (Shaun Lane 2, Tyrone Phillips, Levi Dodd, Tautalatasi Tasi, Matt Frawley tries; Dodd 1, D Chisholm 2 goals) bt North Sydney Bears 22 (Sam Manuleleua 2, Nikko Roberts, Brock Gray tries; Roberts 3 goals)