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The Canterbury Bulldogs have beaten the Wests Tigers 24-20 in one of the most absorbing and entertaining matches of the season at Campbelltown Stadium.
The Bulldogs came firing out of the gates and just minutes in found their way across the line through their nuggety hooker Adam Perry.
Wests managed get onto the scoreboard through Brett Hodgson but as would be the story of the night, the Bulldogs were able to counter soon after when Tonga sliced between two defenders to score.
While the Tigers managed to dominate possession and territory in the back end of the half and score through Richards, they still found themselves trailing 14-8 at the break.
The second half started in controversy that would eventually be the difference between a win and a loss for the Tigers and ensure that referee Tony Archer received an icy send-off at fulltime from fans.
From the kick-off Matt Utai clearly knocked on the ball but with no official noticing he picked up the ball and brought it all the way back to the halfway point. Four plays later Anasta scored under the posts and the Bulldogs were in control of the match.
Minutes later Tony Grimaldi was sin binned for a professional foul but again the Tigers felt hard done by as referee Archer blew his whistle too early and denied Wests a simple try under the posts.
This time justice was served in the following set when Laffranchi stretched out to score and put the Tigers back within striking distance.
Both sides traded tries but as the minutes ticked down the Tigers couldn?t find a way over the Bulldogs line one more time and had to watch their finals hopes slip through their fingers.
Campbelltown Stadium Referee: Tony Archer Video Referee: Graeme West Touch Judges: Pat Reynolds, Steve Carrall
Scorers: WESTS TIGERS Tries: Hodgson, Richards, Laffranchi, Elford Goals: Hodgson 2/4 BULLDOGS Tries: Perry, Tonga, El Masri, Anasta Goals: El Masri 4/5
By the clock: 0 min: Kick-off!
5th min: TRY - Bulldogs. On the back of a penalty Steve Price ran at the line before offloading back to Perry to score. Hazem El Masri converts - Bulldogs 6-0.
9th min: NEWS - The Bulldogs have been full on attack in these opening minutes as the Tigers struggle to keep them out.
12th min: PENALTY GOAL - Bulldogs. The Tigers under pressure give away a penalty out in front and Hazem El Masri slots the two points - Bulldogs 8-0.
14th min: TRY - Tigers. Scott Prince ran across the line, dummied to two players and gave Brett Hodgson an easy run to the line. Hodgson fails to convert - Bulldogs 8-4.
19th min: TRY - Bulldogs. Going from one side of the field to the other the Bulldogs took full advantage of an overlap with Tonga slicing between two defenders to dot down in the corner. Hazem El Masri converts from the sideline - Bulldogs 14-4.
20th min: NEWS - That last conversion from Hazem El Masri brought up his 200th point of the season meaning that he and Eric Simms are the only players to ever score 200 points in 4 consecutive seasons.
22nd min: NEWS - The Tigers have been denied a try by the video referee but have been awarded a penalty for Pattern attempting to take out Richards without the ball.
23rd min: TRY - Tigers. A wonderful try from the Tigers with Scott Prince kicking in behind the line for Pat Richards. Hodgson fails to convert - Bulldogs 14-8.
28th min: NEWS - The Tigers have had a couple of chances in the last couple of minutes in the Bulldogs danger zone.
31st min: NEWS - Excellent defence from the Bulldogs as they've spent the last 5-6 minutes bogged down on their own line.
36th min: NEWS - The Bulldogs have got right back into this match and look very dangerous nearing half time.
39th min: NEWS - A great run from Hodgson gave the Tigers a good chance of scoring on half time but a poor last tackle option let them down.
40th min: HALF TIME - It's been an absorbing first half with the Bulldogs coming out firing in the first 20 minutes but in the later stages the Tigers dominated possession and territory and got themselves right back into the contest.
HALF TIME STATS Score: Tigers 8 Bulldogs 14 Penalties: Tigers 4 Bulldogs 4 Completions: Tigers 18/22 Bulldogs 14/17 Tackles: Tigers 146 Bulldogs 138 Hitups: Tigers 83 Bulldogs 77 Errors: Tigers 4 Bulldogs 3
41st min: The second half is underway!
42nd min: TRY - Bulldogs. On the back of a great 50 metre run from Utai (albeit after a missed knock on by the officials) the Bulldogs worked their way to the Tigers line and El Masri dived across. El Masri fails to convert - Bulldogs 18-8.
46th min: SIN BIN - Tony Grimaldi (Bulldogs). The Bulldogs forward has been given ten for a professional foul but the referee blew his whistle too early and denied the Tigers a try under the posts.
48th min: TRY - Tigers. Justice was finally served for the Tigers as Laffranchi dived over and planted the ball down. Hodgson converts - Bulldogs 18-14.
50th min: TRY - Bulldogs. A big run from Utai put the Bulldogs hot on attack and on the last tackle Anasta stepped back on the inside and scored alongside the posts. El Masri converts - Bulldogs 24-14.
55th min: NEWS - The Tigers are starting to look a little tired after an intense first 15 minutes while the Bulldogs on the other hand have coped well a man down.
56th min: NEWS - Tony Grimaldi is back on the field for the Bulldogs with no real damage being done while he was in the sin bin.
59th min: NEWS - The Tigers have tried the tactic of kicking high to Pat Richards but as of yet haven't had any success with Utai holding strong.
61st min: TRY - Tigers. Shane Elford was put into space and put on a great step to get past Pattern and score. Hodgson converts from out wide - Bulldogs 24-20.
66th min: NEWS - The momentum has swung on the back of that Tigers try and the crowd is really getting in behind the home team.
69th min: NEWS - Matt Utai has saved a certain try by the Tigers in stripping the ball in a one on one tackle over the line.
73rd min: NEWS - The Tigers are only just hanging on here defending repeat sets from the Bulldogs as they try to keep their season alive.
74th min: NEWS - Tensions have boiled over with Scott Prince and Braith Anasta blowing up at each other in the in-goal area.
77th min: NEWS - Canterbury are controlling play at the moment keeping the Tigers pinned down in their own half.
80th min: FULL TIME - An amazing game of football and the Tigers gave it their all in the dying stages but unfortunately their final chances have died with this loss.
FULL TIME STATS Score: Tigers 20 Bulldogs 24 Penalties: Tigers 6 Bulldogs 5 Completions: Tigers 33/43 Bulldogs 32/39 Tackles: Tigers 308 Bulldogs 264 Hitups: Tigers 162 Bulldogs 173 Errors: Tigers 10 Bulldogs 7
----------------------------------------- Leagueunlimited.com players of the match: 3 - S Price (Bulldogs) 2 - B Hodgson (Tigers) 1 - M O'Meley (Bulldogs) -----------------------------------------