The Wyong Roos have stolen a memorable victory from the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at Central Coast Stadium, on the back of some Mitch Williams and Omar Slaimankhel brilliance under pressure.
The Bulldogs, boosted by the inclusions of NRL workhorse Craig Garvey, certainly showed more fight than previous weeks – but the encounter ultimately bore eerie resemblance to their Round 1 draw with Newtown.
It was an overcast day at Central Coast Stadium and all early indications pointed to a typical arm wrestle. In conditions where a sound kicking game would be of extra importance, however, neither side were on song early; Canterbury gifted Wyong a seven-tackle set with an easy take for Joe Burgess in-goal, before Wyong kicked a bomb out on the full.
The Bulldogs absorbed some early goal-line pressure, before winger Jarrod McInally pounced on a loose ball from the Roos to run 50 metres downfield. Halfback Dane Chisholm exploited the scrambling Wyong defence one play later, laying on a beautiful lob to send Tyrone Phillips over in the opposite corner. With a posted Kerrod Holland conversion it was 4-nil 10 minutes into the game.
It didn’t take long before the Bulldogs pack got a roll on and eventually second-rower Renouf To’omaga would muscle his way over to score under the posts, giving the visitors an early 10-nil lead.
Canterbury looked dangerous with another sweeping play to the right side, until it all came undone with a Tyrone Phillips fumble. In the 24th minute the Roos would hit back, with fullback-come-five-eighth Omar Slaimankhel bursting through some soft Bulldogs defence and offloading to speedster Joe Burgess who scored under the posts.
It gave the Wyong attack some life, as both Slaimankhel and halves partner Tyler Cornish applied pressure to the Canterbury line. An Alex Langbridge knock-on under the high ball gifted the Bulldogs field position, who scored via Graham Clarke with a simple pass from dummy-half. The away side regained their 10-point lead with a 16-6 scoreline.
Once again Wyong failed to reap the rewards of strong field position, with Cornish chipping a kick straight to Canterbury’s Reubenn Rennie 10 metres out from their line. The Bulldogs would absorb more pressure for the remainder of the first half to hold on to a 16-6 half-time lead.
As the sun began to beam down on Central Coast Stadium, the game descended into a high-quality back-and-forth with very few errors. It appeared to be the Bulldogs with the slight edge, and in the 49th minute Bulldogs big man Ray Moujalli crashed over under the posts, converted for a 22-6 lead.
On the back of a To’omaga penalty for a high shot, Wyong spread it right to find Dominic Reardon, whose speed and strength saw him muscle his way over to score. With a nice kick from touch, Cornish returned the Roos to a 10-point deficit.
The visitors were beginning to look vulnerable in defence and it was a matter of time until they cracked again; NRL hopeful Abraham Papalii barged his way over, converted for a 22-18 scoreline.
The home side then backed it up with some repeat sets on their line, in which Chisholm and Frawley looked as if they could score at any moment. Some strong carries from forward Zane Tetevano and Paki Afu moved the Roos up-field, before Tetevano found space to score himself and draw things level. With a missed conversion from Cornish it was locked up at 22 points each with just nine minutes remaining.
Neither side were going to die wondering and the Bulldogs in particular were not going to be satisfied with a second draw of the season. It was Wyong hooker Mitch Williams, however, who came up with the game-changing play; with four minutes left on the clock, the stocky dummy-half kicked a timely 40-20, which Slaimankhel soon made the most of with some fancy footwork to score. The try was converted and the Roos stole the win at home as scores finished 28-22 at full-time.
The Bulldogs will be disappointed with their inability to shut out the game, particularly given how 2016 has gone for them so far. The Roos, meanwhile, notch up their first back-to-back wins of the season.
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