Bulldogs strike crucial blow to
Warriors' finals hopes

Fulltime score: Round 18 New Zealand Warriors 24 v Bulldogs 26

Match summary: The Bulldogs have held onto a controversial-at-times thriller at Ericsson Stadium today, bringing the Warriors hopes for the top eight crumbling down in front of 12,822 loyal Kiwis.

Anasta shone for the Dogs as they were forced to grip their late lead against the Warriors. The game turned in and out, both teams switching the lead, before Canterbury finally managed to skip 8 points clear late in the half with an improbable penalty for El Masri followed up by a try to McIlwain. A late surge from New Zealand denied the Bulldogs an easy closing of the game and were forced to hold on, finally prevailing.

Anasta's brilliance was overshadowed by some great Warriors play at times, Stacey Jones orchestrating some wonderful tries for the home side, even crossing once himself. An injury to Luke Patten for the 'Dogs late in the first half also helped the Warriors stay in the game.

The comeback of Willie Mason and also Reni Maitua was a big talking point. The Test forward had an excellent game, making 102 metres in the time he had on the park.

For the Bulldogs, they stay one step closer to a finals berth, while the Warriors chances are now looking extremely dark, the men from across the ditch now 4 points out of the top eight.

Scorers: CANTERBURY BULLDOGS 26 Tries: B Anasta 3, D McIlwain Goals: H El Masri 5/5 NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS 24 Tries: W Koopu, F Meli, S Jones, T Byrne Goals: S Jones 4/4

Venue: Ericsson Stadium. Crowd: 12,822 Referee: Paul Simpkins Half time: 12-all.

Live commentary:

CHANGES: Maitua in, Phelps out. The return of Willie Mason is confirmed, Brideson drops off the bench.

0 min: KICKOFF!

2 min: NEWS- Good first set by both clubs. Question still looms as to when Mason will take the field.

4 min: NEWS- First penalty of the game to Warriors for Canterbury offside, but they drop it from the tap, Dogs on the attack now. Score remains 0-0.

9 min: TRY- Bulldogs. Anasta crosses after a brilliant break by El Masri - who kicks across putting Anasta in close to the posts. El Masri converts. Bulldogs 6-0

17 min: TRY- Warriors. A penalty count of 3-0 to the Warriors finally pays dividends for Wairangi Koopu as he crosses. Try converted by Jones and scores are even once again. Bulldogs 6-Warriors 6

20 min: NEWS- Reasonably free flowing so far, the Bulldogs dominating until a recent Warriors try. Anasta having an good game for the 'Dogs while Fauimuina and Ropati have been outstanding for New Zealand. No murmurs from the Dogs bench yet but Mason is sure to burst onto the field soon.

22 min: NEWS- The biggest interchange of 2005 - Big Willie Mason is on the park, along with Chris Armit. Will be interesting to see how his first run goes. Score still 6-each.

26 min: NEWS- Boos greeted Mason on his first run, as expected. Palaeeasina for New Zealand lifted Armit above the horizontal, giving the Bulldogs field position. Almost a try for Canterbury but a forward pass ruled at the end of the play. Score still 6-each.

29 min: NEWS- Bulldogs again let out of jail by a silly penalty against New Zealand. Betham holding on too long in the tackle.

30 min: TRY- Warriors Jones gets it away superbly for Francis Meli, the former converting from out wide. Warriors 12-6.

35 min: NO TRY- Bulldogs Looks as if Lolesi has scored after a massive Sherwin bomb. Not to be. NEWS- Perry replaces Hughes at hooker for Canterbury. Warriors still lead 12-6.

39 min: TRY- Bulldogs Daring call from the ref to let El Masri get away with a knock-on, but seconds later, the Warriors stand around as Anasta crosses easily. El Masri converts. Scores even at the break. Bulldogs 12-Warriors 12

HALFTIME. 12-all at the break. Warriors truly swung the momentum mid-half as they took control. Jones (NZ), Anasta (BU) both playing great games, Mason (BU) and Fien (NZ) also playing well. Patten off injured at the moment, more news on him soon - the second half to get underway shortly.

Second half underway.

42 min: TRY- Bulldogs Bulldogs steal the lead as Anasta gets #3. The NSW 5/8th is on fire as Maitua's set-up atones for his first half sins. El Masri converts. Bulldogs 18-12

47 min: TRY- Warriors Jones finishes a wonderful movement and New Zealand close back in on the Dogs. Jones converts. Bulldogs 18-Warriors 18

55 min: NEWS- Warriors bomb a try as Toopi drops it. The Dogs take Mason off the field as they surge upfield. Bulldogs end the set by forcing another, so will go on the attack again. Still 18-18 each way.

63 min: CROWD - 12,822 Good crowd at Ericsson today, very pro-Warriors.

64 min: PENALTY GOAL- El Masri has scored a penalty goal from 38m out, close to touch. Unbelievable goal! Bulldogs 20-18.

70 min: NEWS- Both sides giving it everything. Dogs on the attack now. Bulldogs 20-18 still.

71 min: TRY- Bulldogs The Dogs seemingly put New Zealand out of business with a scrappy try in the corner to McIlwain. El Masri kick is leather perfect! Bulldogs 26-18.

74 min: NEWS- Bulldogs now hold 8 points over New Zealand and things are looking grim for the Warriors. The Black and Silver will give it their all in the final 5.

76 min: TRY- Warriors Byrne scores, Warriors setting everything into high gear now. Jones keeps the perfect kicking record of both sides intact, two points in it now. Bulldogs 26-24.

79 min: NO TRY- Warriors. Bulldogs save it from the Warriors. Turnover for the Dogs with 40 seconds to go. Senesational finish. Bulldogs 26-24. 40 seconds to go.

FULLTIME. Despite a controversial finish, Canterbury have held on to a thriller across the Tasman. They win 26-24 and keep their hopes alive to be in the eight. The Warriors again lose a close one but a couple of wins will see the Kiwi men back in contention.

----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - B Anasta (Bulldogs) 2 - S Jones (Warriors) 1 - T Byrne (Warriors) -----------------------------------------