The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have kept in touch with the top eight, after scraping their way to a 30-18 win over the Newcastle Knights at Cessnock Sportsground.
Both sides were looking to bounce back from narrow losses last week and after kicking off, the Knights controlled early sets. Back-to-back penalties after just three minutes allowed second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon to crash over from a William Pearsall pass.
Down 4-0, discipline continued to prove costly for the Bulldogs with another penalty on the next set after the kick-off giving Newcastle another set inside the opposition’s red zone. On the fifth tackle, a cross-field kick was plucked out of the air in the left-side corner by Thomas Hughes to extend the lead to 8-0.
When the Bulldogs finally got some possession, they showed just how dangerous they could be in attack, striking back through Tyrone Phillips after several of his teammates slipped through some lazy defence from the Knights.
The Bulldogs were not about to ease up the pressure, after getting a piggyback downfield through a penalty, the visitors were only held out by some desperate Knights defence holding them up. But when Newcastle failed to clear up the fifth-tackle grubber kick, halfback Adam Keighran put the Bulldogs 10-8 in front.
In a see-sawing first half, it was not long before the Knights had their chance to hit back, and a slick backline movement saw Kainoa Gudgeon finish off in the corner to regain the lead. Moments later he had his second try, when he caught his opposition winger off his line, resulting in wide open space on the right-hand side.
Leading by 18-10 after 25 minutes, Knights wasted an opportunity to extend their lead when hooker Tyler Randell found some open space, only to throw the offload to a blue and white jersey.
A few sets later, another mistake proved costly. While attacking the Bulldogs' line, the hosts threw an intercept pass for Jeremiah Leasi to run 65 metres. Off the next play the Knights' right-side defence were outnumbered and Richard Kennar cut the margin to two points.
The Bulldogs had two golden chances to hit the front inside the final five minutes, but the Knights' defence held firm to take a 18-16 lead into the sheds.
It was a scrappy start to the second half for both teams; after Knights’ centre Braden Robson was held up, the Bulldogs wasted a try scoring opportunity at the other end. Andrew Saunders made a 30-metre run only to have his pass dropped with the line wide open.
At the other end, the Knights bombed a certain try when Gudgeon regained a grubber kick into the corner, but instead of diving over he passed the ball back inside to Robson who spilled it. A few minutes later another knock-on just metres out was the third missed opportunity for the Knights in the second half.
The Bulldogs looked to have made them pay when Thomas Carr crossed in the corner, only for it to be called back for a forward pass. But a few sets later, Craig Garvey dived over to give the visitors a 22-18 lead.
Handling errors proved costly for the Knights midway through the half, who gave too much field position to their opponents, and when Phillips got his second, the lead was out to eight.
The hosts needed to score next, but every time Newcastle entered the Bulldogs half, handling errors turned over possession. Frustration also boiled over with the red and blues penalised twice in the second half following minor scuffles.
With the match all but over, the Knights rolled the dice with four minutes remaining kicking from the scrum, but Gudgeon could not stay in the field. The 'Dogs finished the match with a try in the 78th minute to Bradley Abbey, to seal the 12-point victory.
The win making it three wins in a row for the Bulldogs over the Knights, who won both clashes between the two sides last season.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 30 (T Ranuku Phillips 2, A Keighran, R Kennar, C Garvey, B Abbey tries; R Martin 3 goals) def Newcastle Knights 18 (K Gudgeon, L Fitzgibbon, T Hughes tries; N Meaney goal)