Mounties were victorious against a late-surging Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs side – in what was their sixth win of the season – to keep their top four aspirations firmly within touching distance at ANZ stadium. An inspired Mounties side were clinical when they needed to be and took their chances, while the ‘Dogs will be left scratching their heads at some of their missed opportunities.
The opening of the contest saw both sides feeling each other out with some grinding end-to-end football as patience and ball control appeared to be the key areas for both sides. Craig Garvey saved what looked to be a certain try to Mounties in the opening 10 minutes by knocking down a pass that would have seen the visiting side open the scoring.
It took 16 minutes before the opening points were scored, as a well-timed offload put Lachlan Croker into some space five metres out from the line as he dove in untouched. Isaac John converted halfway in from touch to lead 6-0.
It wouldn’t be long before the Bulldogs hit back, with a thrilling 70-metre try started from the little number six Josh Cleeland, who poked his nose through and slipped a classy pass to his winger – who simply drew the defensive fullback to put Rhyse Martin in next to the sticks and tie things up at 6-6.
It seemed as if nothing was happening for the Bulldogs, before some fancy footwork at the line saw Cleeland in behind the Mounties defensive line. He put on a massive right-foot step to leave the fullback clutching at thin air as he ran the ball in under the posts, giving the home side a six-point lead.
With five minutes to go, all signs pointed towards the Bulldogs holding onto their lead at the break before Dunamis Lui powered his way over some soft goal-line defence to equalize yet again and grab the momentum heading into the sheds.
Mounties carried their first half form straight into the second, scoring nearly immediately with a bust from second-rower Scott Sorenson and finding his fullback Zac Santo back on the inside as he cruised over to take his side out to a 12-18 lead. The next set seemed to be almost a replica as Sorensen again burst through before knocking on in the tackle, giving the Bulldogs a much-needed reprieve as they looked to counter the fast-paced Mounties.
Both sides seemed to struggle with cohesion as fatigue set in and the errors began to pile up. Neither side wanted to yield, as the battle was hard fought with both sides failing to capitalize on several chances in the oppositions half. It seemed as if there would be no further points scored in the second half as the Bulldogs gave away a penalty right in front of the sticks; that gave Mounties a seemingly insurmountable lead of 20-12, but the old ’Dogs of war never go down without a fight and in the dying stages of the match Reimis Smith dived in the corner to give his side a final chance.
On the final play of the game, however, a wayward pass went forward and went into touch, sealing a deserved but sloppy victory over Canterbury-Bankstown.
Mounties will be happy enough with their performances but will understand they have plenty to improve on as they head into a week’s break, with the Intrust Super Premiership NSW Residents game being played over the Representative Round. The Bulldogs, however, will go back to the drawing board and look to bounce back with a win against the Wests Tigers at Belmore Sports Ground in two week’s time.
Mounties 20 (L Croker, D Lui, Z Santo tries; I John 4 goals) def Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 (R Martin, J Cleeland, R Smith tries; R Martin 2 goals)