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The Canterbury Bulldogs have eventually run out comfortable 42-22 winners over the North Queensland Cowboys at the Sydney Showground. It was the last throw of the dice for the Cowboys who saw their season evaporate following a controversial video ref call in the 70th minute.
The Bulldogs were hanging onto an eight point lead following a spirited comeback from the Cowboys. The decison to award a try to Bulldogs backrower Adam Perry, who at dummy half ran into the back of his own team mate to score, delivered the decisive blow to the Cowboys and with that, their 2003 season.
The Bulldogs opened the scoring after captain Steve Price burst through after seven minutes. The Cowboys struck back momemts later when Josh Hannay found room down the flank to score out wide and then converted his own try. The visitors hit the front after Jamie McDonald crashed over following Paul Bowman inspired attacking raid. The Cowboys were denied going further ahead when the video ref ruled interference against forward Kevin Campion.
North Queensland, however were unable to complete their movements and the Bulldogs soon found themselves in control following tries to winger Matt Utai and halfback Brent Sherwin. At half time the Bulldogs were in front 18-12.
The Bulldogs went further ahead in the second half and looked like they might go on with it before Matt Sing responded by finishing off a tremendous team try in the 58th minute. The Cowboys scored again and with 15 minutes to go, it was an eight point ball game.
But with 10 minutes to go, Adam Perry crashed over to deliver the knock-out punch. In a decision which seemingly contradicts NRL directives, video referee Phil Cooley deemed that the man playing the ball did not interfere with the Cowboys' marker defence.
In the final minute, Nigel Vagana scored out wide to give the Bulldogs a well deserved victory.
Scorers: BULLDOGS 42 Tries: Price, Utai, Sherwin, Asotasi, Patten, Perry, Vagana Goals: E Masri 6/6 defeated COWBOYS 22 Tries: Hannay, McDonald, Sing, Myles Goals: Hannay 3/5
Sunday 27 July 2003 2:30 PM Sydney Showground Referee: Steve Lyons
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - B Sherwin (Bulldogs) 2 - P Rauhihi (Cowboys) 1 - S Price (Bulldogs)
By the clock: 0 min: kickoff!
7 min: TRY - Bulldogs. Skipper Steve Price goes through a hole from 15m and scores next to the posts. Conversion Hazem El Masri. Bulldogs 6-0
11 min: TRY - Cowboys. Josh Hannay scores out wide after Chris Sheppard targets a weakness down the left flank. Wide conversion from Hannay is spot on. 6-all
17 min: TRY - Cowboys. Jamie McDonald crashes over following a bust from Paul Bowman. Cowboys making big yards up the middle. Conversion from Hannay within range but hits the upright and is unsuccessful. Cowboys 10-6
25 min: NO TRY - Hannay denied a double after video ref rules interference from Kevin Campion on El Masri.
30 min: TRY - Bulldogs. Winger Matthew Utai scores 5m in from touch after finding space down the left side. Conversion El Masri is a beauty. Bulldogs 12-10
33 min: TRY - Bulldogs. Brent Sherwin regathers his own bomb and scores 5m from the uprights. A superb solo effort that started with a high kick from 30m out. Conversion El Masri. Bulldogs 18-10
40 min: PENALTY GOAL - Cowboys. Josh Hannay makes no mistake after the Bulldogs are penalised following knees in the head. Corey Hughes is placed on report. Bulldogs 18-12
HALF TIME: The Cowboys putting the Bulldogs on a leash and controlling proceeedings but were unable to convert yards into points when it mattered most. Full credit to Canterbury who came back with some classy tries to claim the ascendancy late in the half. Bulldogs 18-12
Second half underway...
49 min: TRY - Bulldogs. Roy Asotasi crashes over next to the posts. Conversion El Masri. Bulldogs 24-12
53 min: TRY - Bulldogs. Luke Patten regathers a Brent Sherwin grubber from 20m out and scores near the posts. Conversion El Masri (900th career point for Hazem). Bulldogs 30-12
58 min: TRY - Cowboys. Matt Sing scores following a backline movement which started 80m out. Champagne footy and the best try of the match so far. Conversion Hannay 15m from uprights is successful. Bulldogs 30-18
64 min: TRY - Cowboys. David Myles picks up the dregs to score 5m in from touch following a chip kick from Sheppard down the short side. Difficult conversion from Hannay into the sun just wide of the left hand upright. Bulldogs 30-22
70 min: TRY - Bulldogs. Adam Perry scores a controversial try after the video ref allows the dummy half to crash over after running into the man playing the ball who is effectively running interference. The same movement has been deemed illegal in other matches over the last month. But the try is allowed and that's the Cowboys' season. Conversion El Masri. Bulldogs 36-22
80 min: TRY - Bulldogs. Nigel Vagana races away to score in the corner and the Bulldogs win fairly comfortably in the end. El Masri keeps his record intact with a tremendous conversion. Bulldogs 42-22
FULL TIME: The Bulldogs deserving winners against a gallant Cowboys side.