The Bulldogs have muscled their way to a gutsy 20-12 victory over the North Sydney Bears in a scrappy encounter at North Sydney Oval on Saturday afternoon.
On the back of a barnstorming Rhyse Martin and spirited performance from Josh Bergamin, the Bulldogs were able to hold off a fast-finishing Bears outfit thanks to some committed defensive efforts in the closing stages.
Both sides were guilty of ill-discipline with the ball-in-hand with some costly mistakes in the opening half, but the Bulldogs ensured they would go into the break with a slight advantage after a Martin try just moments before the half-time whistle.
The Bears came out with a point to prove in the second-half but a scintillating individual effort from Bronson Garlick halted their momentum and ensured the Bulldogs would come away with two valuable competition points.
Smith gave the Bulldogs a perfect start after he pounced on a loose Dean Hawkins pass before running 50 metres down the left-hand touchline to take an early lead after 10 minutes.
Both sides were looking to take advantage of some valuable field position with some threatening attacking raids, but more handling errors ruined their chances with the Bulldogs holding onto their slender six-point advantage after 25 minutes.
Just moments later, a determined effort from Connor Tracey saw the elusive five-eighth break through some poor defensive efforts to get the Bears back into the contest after a scrappy opening stanza.
Hawkins converted to level the scores at 6-all after 30 minutes.
A strong carry off a 20-metre restart from Josh Bergamin quickly shifted momentum after the Bulldogs were heavily on the back-foot, before a deft grubber from Lachlan Lewis saw Rhyse Martin snatch the lead with just five minutes remaining in the first-half.
Martin converted his own try as the Bulldogs took a handy 12-6 lead at the break.
An energetic start from the Bears saw them dominate the middle-third in the early exchanges, but a penalty-goal from Martin gave the Dogs an eight-point buffer after 50 minutes.
The Bears threatened to hit-back with repeated sets on the Bulldogs goal-line but were unable to capitalise as the Bulldogs defence held strong.
Garlick had an immediate impact off the bench when he burst onto a Martin offload on the halfway line before evading the fullback and clutching Bears defenders to cross for crucial four-pointer with just 20-minutes remaining.
The Bears had a glimmer of hope when Mawene Hiroti crossed just five minutes later after he darted through some flimsy defence to reduce the deficit to just ten points.
The Bulldogs looked to have put the result beyond doubt with Tuipulotu Katoa crossing in the right-hand corner in the closing stages only to be denied by a forward pass.
Martin had a chance to add another two-points to their tally right on full-time, but he was unsuccessful as the Bulldogs claimed a hard-fought 20-12 victory.