NRL: Bulldogs grip too powerful

By Kris Shannon

Shaun Johnson is denied a last minute try by the tackle of Josh Morris. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Shaun Johnson is denied a last minute try by the tackle of Josh Morris. Photo / Brett Phibbs

The Warriors were unable to celebrate Andrew McFadden's permanent appointment with a win, being tipped over by the table-topping Bulldogs in Hamilton last night.

The 16-12 defeat brought to a close the Warriors' brief winning streak and extended the Bulldogs' stretch of seven straight victories.

Having produced enough in a pair of wins to shed the interim tag, McFadden had his side threatening an upset in the opening stages. But the respective sides' positions on the ladder eventually showed, with a professional second-half performance enabling the Bulldogs to survive a furious finish.

The loss left the Warriors in the competition's bottom five and ended a spell of positivity that saw McFadden earn a contract extension through the end of the 2017 season. But there were still signs in the display that the Warriors could pull themselves into playoff contention as the campaign progresses.

"We were scrambling well and we did give ourselves a sniff after not having a hell of a lot of possession," said captain Simon Mannering. "That's a positive to take out of it but, at the end of the day, we didn't play well enough to beat a good side."

The Bulldogs' success has been built on defence - the meanest in the NRL - and they bent without breaking as the Warriors established early ascendancy. But, having played flawless football to take the lead through Ben Matulino, errors began to creep into the Warriors' game.

Simple mistakes put them under the pump and, after completing their first 11 sets, the Warriors failed to do so in four of their next six. Only their scrambling defence was keeping out Canterbury - until the half hour mark when Mitch Brown crossed in the corner.

"It probably compounded in that first half," Mannering said. "They're a good side and if you give them that much possession - especially on our try line - they're going to break you eventually."

The halftime break did nothing to turn the tide and it was only a matter of minutes before James Graham found his way through a hole. And the Bulldogs' quality again shone through as they opened an eight-point gap, with Greg Eastwood the benefactor of a thrilling last-tackle play.

"Against a good side, you can't give them easy opportunities, and we did that after halftime without putting any pressure on them," said coach Andrew McFadden. "But I'm really proud of our guys' effort. Because, with the possession count midway through that second half, we shouldn't have been that close. And we somehow managed to give ourselves a chance to win the game."

That came in the final 10 minutes when Ben Henry dotted down and a stunning break from Shaun Johnson looked set to complete the comeback, before a last-gasp Josh Morris tackle sealed the result.

"It's fair to say we got beaten by a pretty tough side," McFadden said. "We certainly didn't make it easy on ourselves but the opposition need to take a fair bit of credit."

Bulldogs 16 (Brown, Graham, Eastwood tries; Hodkinson con, pen)
Warriors 12 (Matulino try; Johnson con)
HT: 4-6

- APNZ

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