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It was scrappy, it was frustrating but ultimately it was tense. If you watched this donning the black and white of the Warriors then you could simply say this was definitely one of the ones which got away.
Despite being under pressure for most of the match, the Bulldogs held strong and stayed true to the attributes which have made them a real standout in this year's competition. They defended doggedly and held the Warriors out for multiple sets of possession.
The Warriors came roaring out of the blocks and in the 6th minute they opened the scoring through the monstrous Manu Vatuvei who crashed over in the corner for an early lead.
The rest of the first-half was spent with both teams feeling each other out and probing for weaknesses with the Warriors having the glut of possession. Simple errors in the Warriors' kicking game and handling let them down and they were unable to add to their early lead.
It finally took until the 36th minute for the Bulldogs to open their account. Ben Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth linked up but a loose pass found the leg of Michael Luck. Luck was quite literally on the Bulldogs' side though as Michael Sullivan pounced on the ball to open his team's account. An easy El Masri conversion gave the Bulldogs the lead at the break and it seemed that momentum had swung their way at 6-4.
It certainly seemed as though the Bulldogs were going to get on a roll as they burst off the blocks early in the second-half with Luke Patten scoring a try in the 44th minute. The Bulldogs lead 12-4 after another conversion from El Masri.
It was then left for the Warriors to get back into the match. Back-to-back penalties enabled them to build their way back but again simple errors in pivotal positions lead to disappointment and frustration.
Finally the Warriors broke their duck and Kevin Locke soared high off a Stacey Jones kick to score in the 61st minute. Kevin Locke was unable to convert his try but his team's confidence clearly seemed to be increasing.
Ian Henderson, who had a lively match, found big Russell Packer for a try which Kevin Locke converted to give his team the lead back. The Warriors lead 14-12 with 15 minutes remaining.
The Warriors kept the pressure on the Bulldogs and got several back-to-back sets as they aimed to keep the ball down in the Bulldogs' half. This tactic worked well as they strangled the possession stakes but were undone by not being able to get more points on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs then stole the lead back in the 78th minute along with the match. Daryl Millard broke away down field to set his team up and Ben Roberts found a flying Ben Barba for the match-winning try. Hazem El Masri kept his flawless kicking record intact for the afternoon and the Bulldogs finished 18-14 winners.
Canterbury Bulldogs 18 def New Zealand Warriors 14
Round 18 - Sunday July 12th, 2009 02:00pm
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
Referee: Jason Robinson & Gerard Sutton
Sideline Officials: Russell Turner & Gavin Reynolds
Video Referee: Tim Mander Crowd: 11,802 Halftime: Bulldogs 6-4
New Zealand Warriors 14 Tries: Manu Vatuvei, Kevin Locke, Russell Packer Goals: Kevin Locke (1/3) Canterbury Bulldogs 18 Tries: Michael Sullivan, Luke Patten, Ben Barba Goals: Hazem El Masri (3/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Player of the Match 3 Points: Ben Roberts (Bulldogs) 2 Points: Kevin Locke (Warriors) 1 Point: Ian Henderson (Warriors)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome to Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland for the first of two Sunday matches Round 18 has to offer. This afternoon it's the New Zealand Warriors facing up against the Canterbury Bulldogs. It's a simple equation today for the Warriors, they simply must take advantage of this weakened Bulldogs team. They have to get it right today if they hope to play in the finals. We'll bring you all the action shortly.
Talk about the game as it happens - Warriors v Bulldogs forum discussion - click here!
WARRIORS: 1. Wade McKinnon 2. Kevin Locke 11. Simon Mannering 4. Joel Moon 5. Manu Vatuvei 6. Lance Hohaia 7. Stacey Jones 8. Russell Packer 9. Ian Henderson 10. Sam Rapira 17. Jacob Lillyman 12. Lewis Brown 13. Micheal Luck (c) Interchange: 14. Aaron Heremaia 15. Jesse Royal 16. Ben Matulino 20. Ukuma Ta