Match Summary The Canterbury Bulldogs have scored two late tries to defeat the St George Illawarra Dragons 28-24 in controversial circumstances at WIN Stadium tonight.
With both sides scoring five tries each, the boot of winger Hazem El Masri proved to be the difference, the champion goal kicker slotting four goals from five attempts - Dragons halfback Jamie Soward had a less than successful night with just two goals from six attempts.
The match, however, was turned on its head following a try to Sonny Bill Williams in the 70th minute, the Bulldogs back rower ending a week in the media spotlight with a controversial four-pointer. While a question mark lingered over the second player in the tackle, Williams ultimately gained a benefit-of-the-doubt ruling following a ball strip on Dragons lock Ben Creagh from close range.
It was the second benefit-of-the-doubt ruling to go in the Bulldogs favour. In the 36th minute El Masri got the nod after Bulldogs centre Darryl Millard appeared to put a push on defender Jamie Soward.
The Dragons opened the scoring with a try to Beau Scott, the back rower diving onto to the line in the 12th minute.
In a match marred by numerous high tackles, Bulldogs forward Andrew Ryan found himself on report in the 15th minute following a high shot on Dragons prop Jason Ryles. While the Bulldogs skipper will have a case to answer when he fronts the NRL Judiciary next week, a concussed Ryles was forced from the field for the next 35 minutes of play, leaving the Dragons with a three-man bench for much of the game .
The ensuing penalty goal put the Dragons up by six and a try to centre Matt Cooper in the 22nd minute gave the home side a 10-0 lead.
Saints went further ahead when stand-in centre Keith Lulia raced away to score out wide in the 28th minute.
El Masri's try just before the break trimmed the lead to 10 and at half time, the Dragons were 14-4 in front.
El Masri bagged a double soon after break and the visitors were back in the match at 14-10.
But the Dragons struck four back minutes later after Jamie Soward put a step on the score next to the posts.
Trailing by 20-10, the Bulldogs raised the tempo with a well worked try down the short side, Nick Kouparitis scoring on the inside and providing El Masri with an easy conversion.
The return of Jason Ryles to the field was marked by numerous forward charges which culminated with a second try to Cooper in the 61st minute. At 24-16, and with a breeze at their backs, the Dragons looked odds-on to secure an upset win.
But the Williams try in the 70th minute got the visitors within range. Then a match winning try to stand-in fullback Trent Cutler, saw the Bulldogs hit the lead with just five minutes remaining.
St George Illawarra Dragons 24 Tries: Beau Scott, Matt Cooper (2), Keith Lulia, Jamie Soward Goals: Jamie Soward (2/6) Canterbury Bulldogs 28 Tries: Hazem El Masri (2), Nick Kouparitsas, Sonny Bill Williams, Trent Cutler Goals: Hazem El Masri (4/5)
Leagueunlimited.com Live Commentary Freezing cold night in Wollongong. Both sides hit by injuries. Notable late omissions: The Dragons are without Mark Gasnier and Chase Stanley. The Bulldogs are without Luke Patten. Teams are on the field. Dragons kick off and we're underway....
10 min: No score as yet as both sides are softening each other up. Scoring opportunities at both ends of the park.
12 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Backrower Beau Scott makes it look easy as he forces his way onto the line to score. Wide conversion attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 4-0
15 min: ON REPORT - Andrew Ryan (Bulldogs) lucky to stay on the field following a high and dangerous tackle on Dragons prop Jason Ryles. Ryles is forced from the field.
16 min: PENALTY GOAL St George Illawarra Dragons Soward from right in front following the penalty against Ryan. St George Illawarra Dragons 6-0
22 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Centre Matt Cooper scores out wide following a clever backline movement from 40m out which puts Soward into a gap. Cooper is in support and unmarked. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 10-0
Dragons now enjoying 66% possession.
28 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Keith Lulia is in the clear on the right side and runs over 30m to score, improving his position to score 15m in from touch. Follows a close call at the other end of the field with the Bulldogs just falling short short of the goal line. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 14-0
32 min: Ref has asked for a video to check on a possible Bulldogs try.... NO TRY - Bulldogs denied. Cameron Phelps tackled into the corner post.
36 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs Hazem El Masri gets benefit of the doubt following a cross-field kick from Ben Roberts. A question mark over the a push in the back from Darryl Millard on Soward. Conversion from out wide. Conversion attempt by Hazem El Masri unsuccessful. St George Illawarra Dragons 14-4
39 min: From the restart, Bulldogs are tackled in their own in-goal after the Dragons come close to scoring from the kick off.
Half time: Dragons 14-4 Saints getting the majority of possession in the first half (61%) and are playing the better of the two sides. Bulldogs trying to muscle up but this is sometimes translating into ill-disciplined play. No news on Ryles yet after he copped a knock from Ryan in the 15th minute. The Dragons will have the breeze at their backs in the second half.
Second half underway...
41 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs El Masri gets a double, scoring under the posts after receiving an offload from halfback Brent Sherwin. Follows a cheap turnover of possession from Lulia soon after the restart. Conversion attempt by Hazem El Masri successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 14-10
45 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Jamie Soward puts the step on Sherwin from 9m out and scores next to the sticks. Follows a turnover from Sonny Bill Williams in the danger zone. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 20-10
50 min: Jason Ryles is back on the field for the Dragons.
55 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs Bulldogs strike back through Nick Kouparitis, scoring 15m wide the posts after the Bulldogs launch a raid down the short left side. The Dragons under the hammer and missing a few tackles. Conversion attempt by Hazem El Masri successful. St George Illawarra Dragons 20-16
60 min: A big bust from half way for the Dragons after Jason Ryles delivers a top shelf offload to fullback Ben Hornby. the ball eventually kicked ahead by hooker Simon Woolford and El Masri bats it dead.
61 min: TRY St George Illawarra Dragons Cooper gets a double, scoring out wide courtesy of long floating pass from Soward. Conversion attempt by Jamie Soward not easy but he's having a shocking night in the conversion department St George Illawarra Dragons 24-16
65 min: 40/20 to the Dragons. Ben Hornby the kicker.
66 min: HELD UP - Dragons winger Jason Nightingale is held up over the line by El Masri. A try saver.
70 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs Sonny Bill Williams gets benefit of the doubt from the video ref after Williams strips the ball off Ben Creagh from close range and scores. A question mark over the second player in the tackle. Conversion attempt by Hazem El Masri successful from almost in front. St George Illawarra Dragons 24-22
75 min: TRY Canterbury Bulldogs Bulldogs hit the front after Trent Cutler cleans up the dregs following a Sherwin bomb. Conversion attempt by Hazem El Masri successful. Canterbury Bulldogs 28-24
Full time: Bulldogs win 28-24 A controversial match which will no doubt be the subject of heated debate over the next few days.Like