Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
The Warriors came out strongly and looked well up for it in the first 20 minutes, running hard and stringing multiple passes and offloads together. Their endeavour was rewarded in the 13th minute when Ben Matulino crashed onto a Nathan Friend short ball from close range and was strong enough to plant the ball down amid a lot of Bulldogs attention.
The second twenty minutes of the first half belonged to the Bulldogs however, as they ground their way back into the game through set completions and their forwards. James Graham and Sam Kasiano in particular caused a lot of problems for the Warriors defence around the ruck, and it was only desperate Warriors defence that held them out on multiple occasions. They did finally crack however eight minutes from the break, with a nice cutout pass from Kasiano finding Mitch Brown who crossed in the corner. Trent Hodkinson's missed conversion meant the Warriors went into the sheds with a slim 6-4 half time lead.
The Bulldogs continued their momentum after the break, and dominated the game up until the 60th minute, controlling possession and territory. They took the lead not long after the break when James Graham ran a beautiful line onto a nice Hodkinson pass, and extended it in the 54th minute when some hot potato football saw Greg Eastwood crash onto a nice offload from Sam Perrett. A Hodkinson penalty goal 15 minutes later saw the lead extend to 10 points but even though the Bulldogs had dominated the half they were still not outside the Warriors reach.
This proved to be the case with just over five minutes left, when a resurgent Warriors team enjoyed multiple sets on the Bulldogs line. They finally got the breakthrough when Ben Henry crossed in the corner. Johnson's brilliant conversion meant the Warriors were within four and the Bulldogs must have been scratching their heads that they had let it get so close. They would have been even more nervous if it hadn't been for some desperate cover defence, most notably from Josh Morris who cut down a brilliant Shaun Johnson break just before the tryline and bundled Johnson into touch in the process.
The Warriors received one last chance to steal the game after the Bulldogs spilled a Sam Tomkins bomb, however they couldn't breach the Bulldogs' defence and the Bulldogs held on for yet another gutsy win that has typified their season so far. They'll remain alone at the top of the table. The Warriors meanwhile, should remain in good sprits after a decent performance despite some questionable handling and discipline.
Canterbury will likely miss a host of Origin stars after a fantastic opening ten rounds as they head home to host reigning premiers the Sydney Roosters on Friday. Meanwhile the Origin-unaffected Warriors have a trip to the Gold Coast where the Titans will host them on Saturday evening.
LATE MAIL: Bulldogs - Canterbury are unchanged and take the field in Hamilton as per program with Moses Mbye not required off the bench
LATE MAIL: Warriors - New Zealand are also unchanged from their side selected on Tuesday
Welcome to Hamilton this Sunday afternoon as the top of the table Canterbury Bulldogs 'host' the resurgent New Zealand Warriors. Expecting a tight contest here with both teams in good form over the last couple of weeks. Just a few minutes from kick-off now.
And we're underway here as the Warriors kick off.
4: The Bulldogs defuse the bomb from Townsend and survive the first attacking raid.
5: The Bulldogs get pinged for a strip as Manu Vatuvei charges the ball back. Another chance for the Warriors.
6: Wobbly grubber on just the second tackle by Sam Tomkins is cleaned up the Bulldogs, and it's compounded by the Warriors conceding a penalty.
7: The first foray into the Warriors' 20 by the Bulldogs finishes with the ball landing in an unsuspecting Shaun Johnson's hands.
13: TRY NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Scored by Ben Matulino. Kick to come.
And it's the Warriors who break the stalemate through big Ben Matulino. He ran onto a Nathan Friend short ball from close range and had enough strength to plant the ball in traffic.
17: The Warriors look up for it this afternoon. The offloads are sticking so far.
23: Nice defusal of the bomb by Ngani Laumape and the Warriors hold on.
30: The Bulldogs go back on the attack after another penalty. They've had the better of the play in the last 10 minutes or so but have yet to cross the line.
32: TRY CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Scored by Mitch Brown. Kick to come.
And the pressure tells. Trent Hodkinson finds Sam Kasiano on the wrap around who throws a lovely ball for a prop onto the chest of Mitch Brown who crosses in the corner.
35: The Warriors under pressure but it's relieved by a loose offload finding Shaun Johnson.
37: It's the Bulldogs throwing caution to the wind on attack now with some nice passing but the Warriors continue to defend their line well.
40: Tomkins defuses a Hodkinson bomb and the Warriors should wind it down to half time now.
40: That is half time now, and so ends a close half of two halves. The Warriors came out guns blazing and scored through Ben Matulino. The Bulldogs had the better of the second 20 minutes and found the line through Mitch Brown. So at the end of the first half it's just the Shaun Johnson conversion that is the difference between the two sides.
40: And we're back underway for the second half here and the Warriors will get first use of the football.
40: UNFORCED ERROR NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Ngani Laumape makes an unforced error.
Another Warriors error inside their own half.
44: TRY CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Scored by James Graham. Kick to come.
A lovely ball from Trent Hodkinson sees Graham run beautifully into a gap in the Warriors defence and the Bulldogs take the lead.
46: Penalty for the Bulldogs and the Warriors have to be careful here they stay in the game.
47: A pause in play here as Konrad Hurrell has to leave the field to get a head knock checked.
48: The Dogs still on attack as the Warriors can't handle the bomb.
52: The grubber goes into the in-goal but a calm Kevin Locke, who came on for Hurrell, watches the ball roll dead.
54: TRY CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Scored by Greg Eastwood. Kick to come.
Great play by the Bulldogs. They were on the attack through another penalty, and Stanley was in trouble but flung the ball in-field to Sam Perrett who found a rampaging Greg Eastwood with a lovely offload.
55: UNSUCCESSFUL CONVERSION CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Conversion attempt by Trent Hodkinson unsuccessful.
Not Hodkinson's best connection and he's hooked it.
57: The Bulldogs have enjoyed 76% possession in this second half. The Warriors are really up against it now as Reynolds forces a repeat set.
58: Josh Reynolds loses control of the ball and the Warriors survive for now.
61: Beautiful offload from Matulino and Vautvei is away, but a nice covering tackle from Josh Jackson sees Vatuvei over the sideline.
63: Warriors peppering the Bulldogs line but Johnson's loopy pass goes over the head of Laumape and over the sideline.
65: Warriors on top in the last 5 minutes. They receive a penalty here and they're 20 metres out.
66: Crazy penalty by Tomkins as he tackles a Bulldogs player from an obvious offside position and the Warriors are running out of time.
68: SUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS
Penalty goal attempt by Trent Hodkinson successful.
Sione Lousi gets pinged for holding on to James Graham for too long and the Bulldogs opt for goal. Hodkinson slots it over from an easy position.
71: Lovely break by Ngani Laumape but he can't handle the ball after the cover defence hits him. Warriors continue to shoot themselves in the foot.
73: UNFORCED ERROR NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Sione Lousi makes an unforced error.
Sione Lousi drops the ball with the Warriors in a decent position and to make matters worse he appears to have a knee injury.
74: Warriors receive back-to-back penalties and they're still a chance here.
75: Another penalty for the Warriors as Josh Morris runs an obvious block.
75: TRY NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS
Scored by Ben Henry. Kick to come.
And it'll be game on for the last five minutes here as the Warriors have crossed in the corner through Ben Henry. Ashley Klein went upstairs to check obstruction but it was clean.
77: Incredible play from the Warriors falls just short. Johnson made a great break and almost crossed in the corner but some unbelievable defence from Josh Morris saves the day. Amazing tackle. 3 minutes left.
80: The Warriors get a fresh six 20 metres out after Perrett spills the bomb. Exciting finish coming up here.
80: Warriors hot on attack but the tap-on from Mannering goes forward and the Bulldogs hold on.