The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs continued their strong form of late, defeating the in-form Illawarra Cutters 44-28 at WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
Illawarra were fortunate to cut the deficit to 14, scoring five unanswered tries in the final 15 minutes for a more respectable score line and momentarily give the home side a chance.
Even with a 10-4 penalty count in their favour and ample opportunities in the opening half, the Bulldogs’ goal line defence was rock solid until the 61st minute of play.
The game was barely two minutes old when Canterbury scored their first points through Brad Clark, with the lock jumping out of dummy-half to score to the right of the uprights.
Chase Stanley converted the try to take the Bulldogs out to an early 6-0 lead.
The visitors added to their lead moments later, when Jaline Graham got a freakish flick pass away to Chase Stanley, with the centre converting his own try for a 12-0 lead.
Despite repeated sets on the Bulldogs line, the Cutters were not able to crack their strong defence, either losing the ball or coming up with a poor last-tackle option.
Tries to Corey Thompson and Makahesi Makatoa in quick succession saw Canterbury run out to a 24-0 lead just shy of the half hour mark.
In their most promising play of the first half, Illawarra-fullback Justin Hunt sliced through the Bulldogs line, but with only one player to beat, was taken high by his opposite number, Jaline Graham, much to the disappointment of the crowd.
It was a more disappointing first half for the Cutters after a knock with under a minute remaining saw David Minute run 40 meters before getting a pass away to Tyrone Phillips for a converted try to make it 30-0 at half-time.
Two converted tries in three minutes just after the break to Tyrone Phillips and Corey Thompson saw the Bulldogs run out to an unassailable 42-0 lead with half an hour remaining, putting the match out of reach for the home side.
The Cutters finished strongly however, with tries to Shannon Wakeman in the 61st and 66th minutes to motivate the home side.
Tries to Kiti Glymin, Kayne Brennan and Justin Hunt in the space of five minutes gave the Cutters fans something to smile about, but it was all a little too late.
Canterbury Bulldogs 44 (T Phillips 2, C Thompson 2, B Clark, M Makatoa, C Stanley tries; C Stanley 7, D Chisholm goals) bt Illawarra Cutters 28 (S Wakeman 2, K Glymin, K Brennan, J Hunt tries; S Crook 4 goals) at WIN Stadium.