The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have pulverised the Wests Tigers 30-10 on a chilly night at ANZ Stadium. The last time these teams met, the Tigers embarrassed the Dogs with a upset hammering. Tonight, the tables were turned as the Dogs stepped up in order to redeem some pride in front of 9,877 brave fans.
Des Hasler named the same 1-17 side as last week, whilst the Tigers had two late withdrawals of Keith Galloway and Kurtis Rowe. Last week's Tigers debutant Jy Hitchcox was moved to fullback. Both teams looked promising at kick-off, with the Bulldogs aiming to cement their position in the top 8. The Tigers, however, were looking to turn things around after four straight losses.
Two early penalties to the Bulldogs set them up with a perfect opportunity to score. They capitalised in the 9th minute with Greg Eastwood setting up the decoy of Josh Jackson, and he produced the goods with help from sloppy Tigers defence. Trent Hodkinson converted, putting the Bulldogs in an early lead of 6-0.
The Tigers kept giving away penalties as if they were presents at Christmas. A penalty to the Bulldogs 5 metres out from their line helped Corey Thompson dive into the corner in the 16th minute. A quick look upstairs validated the grounding, and the Dogs extended their lead. Hodkinson seamlessly added the two points.
Still early days and the Doggies leading 12-0, the Tigers were given opportunities but bombed each one. The rain started to pour, and the Doggies slipped and slid around some defenders, with Tim Lafai dodging some Tigers to get the try in the 21st minute. Once again, Hodkinson converted right over the black dot, making the score 18-0.
Tigers' centre Blake Austin dropped the ball on the dropkick, the Bulldogs coming up with a scrum 10m out from the Tigers' line. Hodkinson kicked for the winger, but was too hard and went out. The Tigers had some work to do to get out of their own 10, and they managed to do it, ending up about 200m from the Dogs' line. A small chip from superstar Tigers halfback Luke Brooks ended up in the wrong hands, as Doggies back Corey Thompson cleaned it up.
An amazing play from the Tigers in the 26th minute also failed to get the points. They broke the defensive line, and ran the length of the field. Though, an attempted offload resulted in Hodkinson picking it up. The Dogs' ensured they used this opportunity, with Lafai dummying and going in for the line. Shocking defence from the Tigers let Lafai fly past them as he got his second try of the night. I experienced déjà vu as Hodkinson converted; the Dogs' points increasing to 24-0 at the 28th minute.
A tug-o-war continued, with many sloppy plays and penalties in the last 10 minutes of the first half.
A quiet 10 minutes on the other side of halftime, lead to a sudden try by Luke Brooks. Deep into the Tigers' own 20, Doggies halfback Hodkinson kicked on the 5th, where Brooks stopped it with his foot, picked it up and foot-raced 90m to the try-line. Unfortunately for Wests, Cory Paterson could not get the extra 2 points - the score becoming 24-4 at the 51st minute.
The Dogs answered this try 15 minutes later, with captain Michael Ennis kicking for himself and getting over the line. A successful conversion brought the score to 30-4. After several mistakes from both parties, in the final minute Aaron Woods managed to get his fingers on the ball, getting another 4 points. Sadly, it was too little too late, even with Paterson's successful conversion leading to a 30-10 score.
After 80 minutes in horrible weather conditions, the Bulldogs added some very important for/against points to their tally, as they aim to have a strong run home before finals. The 30-10 win definitely diminishes the Tigers' finals dreams.
The Bulldogs' next challenge will be a blockbuster at ANZ Stadium against the surging South-Sydney Rabbitohs for next week's fixture of Thursday Night Football. The Tigers will face the bottom-of-the-ladder Canberra Raiders for Saturday night footy.