The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have held off a valiant Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles outfit with a heart-stopping 42-30 victory at Belmore Sports Ground on Saturday afternoon.
After racing out to a 18-4 lead at half-time, the Bulldogs posted four second-half tries to a take a comfortable stranglehold with just 25 minutes remaining, but the Sea Eagles wouldn't go down without a fight with five tries of their own in the closing stages completing an exciting game of Rugby League that saw 13 tries scored between the two sides.
Josh Cleeland and Josh Bergamin were inspirational in their side’s victory with five tries between them, while Pita Godinet and Jamil Hopoate put in starring performances in a losing side.
The Bulldogs started strongly with an early attacking raid on the Workers goal-line, and dynamic five-eighth Josh Cleeland took full advantage as he fooled some questionable defence with a darting run on last tackle to cross for the first try of the afternoon.
Dominating the early exchanges with another set on the opposition goal-line, Lachlan Lewis landed a perfect cross-field kick into the arms of winger Tyrone Phillips - only for his counterpart Maliko Filino to remarkably prevent him from planting the ball down.
The Sea Eagles were searching for a quick response with some threatening raids of their own moments later, but countless errors saw another loose pass pounced on by Bulldogs fullback Josh Bergamin, who ran 70 metres to score their second unanswered try.
Rhyse Martin converted to take a 12-0 lead after just 15 minutes.
After a confident start from the Bulldogs with their forwards laying a strong platform through the middle third, Cleeland continued to capitalise as he shaped to kick before slicing through the scrambling defence, before offloading to an array of supporting players and a scorching long ball found Reimis Smith who strolled over for their third consecutive try.
Quick thinking on the resulting kick-off saw the Sea Eagles quickly regather the ball after a short restart and soon found themselves on the scoreboard as Tyler Cassell bursted onto a slick short ball and barged his way over for their maiden try of the afternoon,
Pita Godinet failed to convert with the Bulldogs holding onto an 18-4 lead with just 10 minutes remaining in the first-half.
The Sea Eagles found a spark following some more committed defensive efforts, but were unable to close the lead further with the Bulldogs maintaining their 14-point advantage at the break.
The second 40 minutes started much like the opening half with the Bulldogs immediately onto the attack, and a short grubber from Lewis was defused by Pita Godinet, only for Asiple Fine to incredibly strip the ball and cross right under the posts.
Brimming with confidence, the Bulldogs' powerful momentum couldn't be stopped with Cleeland and Bergamin scoring their second tries in quick succession, but Blacktown halfback Jamil Hopoate was relishing his new position as he shrugged off a shot of defenders to score a brilliant individual try shortly after.
Despite the scoreline racing out to 36-8 with just 20 minutes remaining, Pita Godinet inspired his struggling team as he scored a classy individual try with an evasive run from 40 metres out.
The Sea Eagles' clinical attacking raids hinted at a potential comeback, but Cleeland made sure their efforts were short lived as he broke the line once again and beat the opposing fullback to complete his hat-trick of tries.
Just when the game looked all but over, a crafty chip kick for Blacktown winger James Tuiahi saw the winger cross in the right-hand corner, before Jordan Hall and Tyler Cassell capitalised on neat grubbers to score three tries in just six minutes. Although playing with a wave of momentum in the dying stages, it was to no avail as the Bulldogs held onto a 42-30 victory.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 42 (J Cleeland 3, J Bergamin 2, R Smith, A Fine goals; R Martin 7 goals) def Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles 30 (T Cassell 2, J Hopoate, P Godinet, J Tuitahi, J Hall tries; P Godinet 3 goals)