AN unsuccessful Jamie Soward penalty goal attempt after full-time has handed the Canterbury Bulldogs a 16-14 win over St George Illawarra in front of 22,958 fans at ANZ Stadium tonight.
With the Bulldogs clinging to a two-point lead as the siren sounded, Josh Dugan chip-kicked for himself and was sandwiched in a tackle with Frank Pritchard before opposite number Ben Barba scooped up the ball and raced 70m.
Referees Jared Maxwell and Phil Haines referred the decision upstairs and after several looks the Dragons were awarded the penalty where the ball landed. With a chorus of boos echoing around the ground and projectiles being thrown from the stands, the nippy five-eighth couldn’t pilot the ball between the posts much to the delight of Bulldogs fans.
Three tries in seven minutes lit up an otherwise dull, grinding first 40 minutes between the two teams. After being held scoreless last week, the Dragons appeared content on getting through sets of six in possession and kicking to a corner to nullify the potency of Ben Barba.
Bulldogs centre Tim Lafai scored a double in the space of four minutes as the Bulldogs appeared to be in cruise control with a 12-0 lead.
His first try was questionable when a second-man play involving Michael Ennis, Joel Romelo and Ben Barba had a hint of obstruction about it, however it was allowed to continue and the home side had first points after 25 minutes. In the 29th minute Lafai was over again in the corner following a pin-point bomb from Romelo which was acrobatically batted back by winger Drury Low. Halfback Trent Hodkinson continued his golden run with the boot where he had only missed one of his previous 23 attempts to put Canterbury up by 12.
In the most controversial play of the first half, Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward was awarded an eight-point try after Dale Finucane spilt possession in front of his own posts. Matt Prior picked up the ball, throwing it between his legs into the arms of Soward who won the race to the corner. Ben Barba then came sliding in late with his knees and a possible eight-point try was awarded. Soward converted from the sideline before converting the penalty from in front of the posts as the Dragons went to the break trailing 12-8 despite being severely outplayed for most of the half.
Sam Perrett extended the Bulldogs lead to eight points five minutes into the second half and it appeared certain the home side would run away with the victory after centre Mitch Brown drew in Jason Nightingale which left Perrett a saloon passage to the tryline.
Canterbury couldn’t quite deliver the knockout blow and the Dragons hung in the contest and once Matt Prior crossed out wide in the 73rd minute, Red V fans dared to dream of a remarkable comeback.
With the clock showing four minutes remaining Soward launched a spiralling torpedo bomb which was knocked on by Drury Low but the Dragons couldn’t take advantage of their good field position. Once Nathan Fien’s kick intended for Josh Dugan was snapped up by Frank Pritchard the result looked a foregone conclusion until Pritchard was again involved following Dugan’s kick for himself.
Soward had the chance to take the match to golden point but his shot from 32m out, 10m in from touch drifted across the face of goal.
Next week the Bulldogs travel to Townsville while the Dragons travel up the F3 to clash with Wayne Bennett’s Knights on Saturday night.