Highlights: Bulldogs v Panthers (Rd 19)
The Canterbury Bulldogs made it three wins in a row after defeating the Penrith Panthers 24-10 in extremely windy conditions.
The loss means the defending premiers slip from atop the ladder into third place after slumping to their third consecutive defeat.
Corey Thompson scored a hat-trick for the Bulldogs, in a game that was riddled with poor ball control and ill discipline from both sides.
The Panthers failed to complete the opening set of the game, before the Bulldogs lost the ball on their first set and conceded the penalty.
Those errors in the opening two minutes set the tone for the rest of the match.
Thompson scored his first try six minutes into the contest after the ball was shifted towards his left wing.
The Bulldogs forced a dropout off the kickoff set, but the Panthers immediately responded by finding the sideline with the kick to regain possession and relieve pressure.
Issac John threw an unbelievable 20-metre cut-out pass to an unmarked Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, who strolled over in the corner to lock up the scores at 4-all after 22 minutes.
Tyrone Phillips chased a grubber and planted the ball down to complete a right edge raid by the Bulldogs to increase their lead to 8-4, and add to his ever-growing try-scoring tally.
The next ten minutes did not reflect the ball control and discipline of two premiership contenders with the errors racking up.
The Panthers snatched the lead on the stroke of half time after Tupou Sopoaga and his bright pink headgear found some space and charged towards the right corner to score. Adrian Davis converted to make the score 10-8 going into halftime.
Five minutes into the second half, Brent Naden was put on report for an extremely ugly, yet accidental, high tackle.
It was a very stop-start encounter with both sides having to endure the slippery surface and strong winds.
No side possessed enough discipline in attack to build any pressure in the opening stages of the half, with the only real try-scoring opportunity being a Phillips linebreak.
To their credit, both sides stood up defensively in this part of the match, with the Bulldogs resiliently holding out the Panthers for three consecutive sets in the 66th minute.
Off the back of this remarkable defensive work, the Bulldogs marched 100 metres up field through their offloads and willingness to keep the ball alive.
Thompson then scored an outstanding try that came off the back of some adventurous second-phase play and a great pass from Herman Ese’ese to take the lead back to 14-10.
Five minutes later, Lindon McGrady scored a wonderful solo try after he stepped through the Panthers defence.
Thompson completed his hat-trick and sealed the win with four minutes remaining after a right-to-left shift that fractured the defence, creating an overlap for the Bulldogs to score.
This win stamps the premiership credentials of the Bulldogs, who have hit form at the perfect time.
The Panthers will play Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium next week, while the Bulldogs will host the Newcastle Knights at Belmore Oval.
Canterbury Bulldogs 24 (C Thompson 3, T Phillips, L McGrady tries; L Dodd 2 goals) bt Penrith Panthers 10 (M Watene-Zeleniak, T Sopoaga tries; A Davis goal) at Belmore Oval.