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A re-born Canterbury-Bankstown side tonight triumphed over the Wests Tigers 24-14 at ANZ Stadium in a cracking match played in front of over 26,000 fans.
With an NRL crowd record waiting to be broken, the fans of both sides turned out in force at ANZ Stadium for the opener to Monday Night Football in 2011. The 26,737 that rolled through the gates catapulted the first round of the competition to a massive aggregate of 201,212, smashing the previous record by more than 15,000 fans.
On the field, it was a war of attrition. The opening 20 minutes saw no points, with both sides defending well with minimal errors. The first major error almost cost the Bulldogs dearly, Ben Barba and Bryson Goodwin mixing up at the back - Blake Ayshford raking the ball out and subsequently knocking it on being their only saviour.
Five minutes later it was the Bulldogs opening the scoring, with Josh Morris stepping past and over most of the Tigers side to run 70 metres and score beside the post, despite the best efforts of a rampaging Lote Tuqiri. It would be Tuqiri who returned serve for the Wests Tigers, the big winger on the end of brilliant service from Benji Marshall a few minutes on, bringing the Tigers within two points before halftime.
It would be the Tigers who started the better in the second half, Chris Lawrence with a short ball near the line crashing over to put the Tigers in front for the only time in the match. Frank Pritchard did exactly what the Bulldogs signed him for within minutes of the Tigers taking the lead, himself taking a short ball to return the blue-and-whites to the front.
At 12-8 the Bulldogs looked to extend their advantage, and a superb Josh Morris break finished with recruit Kris Keating flying into space and claiming his first try in Canterbury colours. The Tigers wouldn't give up though, some Benji brilliance from their number 6 saw him cross the stripe right underneath the posts. He kicked his first conversion of the night to bring the Tigers back within four points, but the Bulldogs managed to steady the ship, and the pinpoint kicking game of Trent Hodkinson gave Steve Turner and the Bulldogs the matchwinner just a few minutes from the final siren.
The win will no doubt shorten the 'Dogs premiership odds considerably, although both they and their opponents have some areas to work on. There are also concerns injury-wise for Canterbury's star centre Josh Morris, a posterior cruciate ligament injury could see him spend some time on the sideline. If it's serious enough, he'll likely miss their Round 2 clash with South Sydney at ANZ Stadium next Sunday. The Tigers, meanwhile, will head home to Leichhardt for Saturday night football against the Warriors.
Canterbury Bulldogs 24 defeated Wests Tigers 14
National Rugby League - Round 1 - Monday March 14, 2011 7:00pm
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Referee: Gavin Badger and Brett Suttor
Video Referee: Sean Hampstead
Touch Judges: David Abood and David Munro
Halftime: Canterbury Bulldogs 6 Wests Tigers 4
Leagueunlimited.com players of the match:
3 Points - Trent Hodkinson
2 Points - Frank Pritchard (1 Try)
1 Point - Aiden Tolman
CANTERBURY BULLDOGS (24)
Tries: Frank Pritchard, Steve Turner, Kris Keating, Josh Morris
Conversions: Bryson Goodwin (4/4)
Penalty Goals: Bryson Goodwin (0/1)
WESTS TIGERS (14)
Tries: Benji Marshall, Chris Lawrence, Lote Tuqiri
Conversions: Benji Marshall (1/3)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary Welcome one and all to Monday Night Football, for one of the most anticipated games of the opening weekend. We will witness the Bulldogs, fresh with a brand new-look squad take on the Tigers, one of the best teams from the competition last season. Could it get any better?
BULLDOGS - The Bulldogs enter this match with the squad at 1-17.
TIGERS - A big loss to the Tigers as Bryce Gibbs is ruled out. Andrew Fifita will start at prop, whilst Aaron Woods comes onto the bench.
TOYOTA CUP - Bulldogs hold on to beat Tigers 16-6 to open season. TJ Taotua, Ali Beale and Paul Carter grab tries for the Bulldogs whilst former Rooster Jacob Miller scored the lone try for his new club.
The sides are out, a massive sound from this crowd!
KICK OFF - Bryson Goodwin gets us underway.
3 min: Early nerves hitting new Canterbury-Bankstown recruit Kris Keating with an early kick, some good hits in it so far.
3 min: Tigers get a second chance as a Robert Lui kick that was knocked on by Wade McKinnon is left to play.
6 min: So far the Tigers have had plenty of ball.
8 min: The two sides getting into an interesting contest. Niggling and pace, it's all here.
10 min: Tigers with a massive chance after forcing a drop out.
12 min: The kick going too far this time. Canterbury off the hook.
16 min: Another error from both sides. The Tigers at least have looked damaging...if only once or twice.
20 min: Possible Wests Tigers try.
20 min: No try. Ben Barba is hit hard by Blake Ayshford, spilling the ball. Ayshford still unable to open the scoring.
22 min: Jamal Idris showing why he is in big demand. Great fun, fending off four.
24 min: A massive chance ends as Trent Hodkinson, in his first Canterbury-Bankstown appearance, ends a set with a poor run against Lote Tuqiri.
26 min: TRY
Canterbury-Bankstown open the scoring simply, as Josh Morris breaks and runs the length to score.
Canterbury Bulldogs 6-0
32 min: TRY
Benji Marshall, after an ordinary start to the game, explodes and sends Lote Tuqiri over to score.
Canterbury Bulldogs 6-4
36 min: Marshall at it again, the chip and chase is almost pulled off, but Ben Barba stands in the path.
40 min: A late penalty to the Bulldogs and Bryson Goodwin will have an attempt.
40 min: PENALTY GOAL ATTEMPT
It's wide and that is half-time, in a shocking game so far. The Bulldogs lead the Tigers 6-4.
Canterbury Bulldogs 6-4
40 min: KICK OFF - Benji Marshall gets us underway again.
45 min: Blake Ayshford down following a head clash with team-mate Keith Galloway.
46 min: TRY
Benji Marshall sets up the second Tigers try as he flicks it to Chris Lawrence, making Jamal Idris look horrible.
Wests Tigers 8-6
52 min: TRY
A new Bulldog tramples an old one. Frank Pritchard bashes his way through Matt Utai and Gareth Ellis to score on debut for his new club.
Canterbury Bulldogs 12-8
55 min: Frank Pritchard is on a rampage following that try!
59 min: I apologise for my comments pre-game. This isn't living up to too much hype it seems, a massive disappointment so far.
60 min: A beautiful Trent Hodkinson kick has put Canterbury-Bankstown in good position.
63 min: TRY
Robert Lui sends it straight to Trent Hodkinson, who sets up the runaway try to Kris Keating. Bulldogs looking good here.
Canterbury Bulldogs 18-8
67 min: TRY
What a try! Benji Marshall weaves through plenty of traffic to score, putting the Tigers back in this.
Canterbury Bulldogs 18-14
73 min: The Bulldogs with a chance to seal it, but a rushed Kris Keating kicked too early, giving the Tigers possession.
77 min: TRY
Kris Keating redeems himself, kicking to Steve Turner in the corner. You'd think that would be it.
Canterbury Bulldogs 24-14
80 min: Benji goes for one more play, but it doesn't come off.
80 min: That's it and the new look Bulldogs have beaten a very disappointing Tigers 24-14.