The New Zealand Warriors have handed the Bulldogs their first defeat since round one of the NRL Telstra Premiership season as they run out convincing 22-14 winners at Ericsson Stadium this evening.
The Dogs were first on the board after a ref's call went the way of the Dogs and rightly so with Vagana scoring in the corner off a Sherwin bomb. That was pretty much all the joy for the Dogs as the rampagin Warriors started to bustle the usually tough Dogs defence and then came the offloads, with Seu Seu and Lauititi passing at will and carving big holes in the Dogs line.
Meli was first across the line for the Warriors after some good offloads from Webb and Lauititi and Cleary added the extras to give the Warriors the lead for the first time in the match.
In the 20th minute Cleary crossed close to the posts after some hot potato passing and the Bulldogs simply had no answer for the power of the Warriors forwards with two tries disallowed.
The Warriors emerged after half time with the same enthusiasm and it soon paid dividends with a cross field grubber grassed by El Masri and David Myles ended up scoring in the corner to extend the Warriors lead out to two converted tries but you always felt this would never be a big enough lead against the Dogs.
In the 62nd minute Koopu ended the Bulldogs fairy tale with a try and the subsequent conversion would put the match beyond the reach of the Dogs but not after two late tries to El Masri and Utai to give a bumper crowd of 21,750 more than a few heart palpatations.
The Bulldogs now have to face up to a injury ravaged Parramatta side next week but are no sure things after tonight, with the loss of Norton and Anasta very evident and simply too much of a cross to bear for playmaker Brent Sherwin, who didn't have the happiest of games.
The Warriors season looked to have derailed after an upset loss to Canberra, but back to back victories has put them firmly back in the hunt and are one of the sides to be feared because on their day, they are the most potent and powerful attacking side in the NRL. This competition is stillvery wide open with any of the top seven sides capable of winning on their day.
NZ Warriors (Tries: Meli, Cleary, Myles, Koopu. Goals: Cleary 3/4) Canterbury Bulldogs (Tries: Vagana, El Masri, Utai. Goals: El Masri 1/3)