The Canterbury Bulldogs put on a defensive master-class to defeat the North Sydney Bears 22-4 and advance to Week Two of the VB NSW Cup Finals Series.
Jaline Graham played an imperative role in getting the Bulldogs off to a flying start; with two early tries to his name as well as a line-break that led to a try.
The Bears threw everything at the Bulldogs for 80 minutes, but the home side only conceded one try and proved they are a force to be reckoned with in the back end of the season.
Graham opened the scoring for the Bulldogs when he stepped his way through some flimsy goal line defence to break through and plant the ball down. Levi Dodd’s conversion attempt hit the post and the score remained 4-0.
The next 20 minutes saw an incredibly entertaining game of football, with both sides being patient and making limited errors, with the match being played at an extremely fast pace.
A Graham linebreak followed by a Darryl Millard mistake gave the Bulldogs a try-scoring opportunity, and they capitalised when Tyrone Phillips stood up in a tackle and offloaded for Graham to score his second try with nine minutes remaining in the half.
Matt Frawley unsuccessfully attempted a field goal on the stroke of halftime, which meant the score remained 10-0 heading into the break.
Corey Thompson split the Bears in half just four minutes into the second half to run away and pass for Pat O’Hanlon, who was lingering in support, to score under the posts and increase the Bulldogs lead to 16-0.
Some desperate Bulldogs defence denied Nathan Brown the first Bears try of the night after they held him up on fifth tackle after he charged over the line.
A pin-point cross-field kick by Matt Frawley led to the Bulldogs fourth try after Jarrod McInally leapt over the top of Bernard Gregorius to pluck the ball out of the air and plant the ball down in the left corner.
Gregorius immediately made amends with a powerful 40-metre kick return, which led to a John Olive try in the left corner after a Cody Walker cutout ball fractured the Bulldogs' defence and created an overlap.
The Bears almost went back-to-back when Gregorius burrowed over from dummy half, and despite various protests from Bears players, the referee called held up.
Some incredible Bulldogs defence denied the Bears further opportunity to score, followed by an Alex Sorge intercept to get them out of trouble and once again relieve the pressure.
There were no further tries in the match as the Bulldogs advance to Week Two of the VB NSW Cup Finals Series, where they will take on the New Zealand Warriors. The Bears, meanwhile, are eliminated and can only look forward to an end-of-season trip and their hopes of success in 2016.
Canterbury Bulldogs 22 (J Graham 2, P O’Hanlon, J McInally tries; L Dodd 3 goals) bt North Sydney Bears 4 (J Olive try)