DESPITE racing out of the blocks and leading 18-0 after 18 minutes Canterbury required golden point to outlast Manly 32-30 in a Friday night thriller in front of 12.157 diehards at a chilly Brookvale Oval tonight.
Bulldogs halfback and former Sea Eagle Trent Hodkinson proved the hero with a successful 84th minute penalty goal after the home side surged back into the contest to level the scores in the 78th minute.
Hodkinson was heavily involved in the opening quarter of the match with his boot directly laying on tries for Josh Morris in the 2nd minute, followed by Ben Barba in the 11th minute. Barba was the beneficiary of Manly five-eighth Kieran Foran and centre Steve Matai impeding each other in their own in-goal in an attempt to defuse the kick.
Frank Pritchard charged through a lazy attempted tackle from Anthony Watmough in the 17th minute and it looked to be all one-way traffic as the visitors played direct, no-mistake football.
City Origin representative Jorge Taufua got the Eagles on the board in the 26th minute after Foran spun out of Inu and Reynolds' tackle before he floated a pass over the top to his winger. Taufua still had some work to do but he did it well, despite Sam Perrett coming across in cover.
The second half was a repeat of the first as the Bulldogs began the half in fine style with fullback Barba notching his second try of the night. The 60-metre effort started with Reynolds who drifted across field before firing a pass to Perrett on the right hand side. Perrett delivered a perfect one-handed pass around the corner to Krisnan Inu who found Reynolds looming in support before he drew Pita Hiku, sending Barba on an unimpeded 30-metre race to the line.
Manly second-rower Justin Horo again closed the gap to 24-12 in the 51st minute with Foran again in the thick of the action as his his pass found Jamie Buhrer who offloaded a miraculous one-handed effort to Horo to outmuscle Barba into the in-goal.
The most controversial decision of the night occurred in the 58th minute when referee Shayne Hayne referred Josh Reynolds' attempt at a try to the video referee. Despite replays suggesting the Canterbury five-eighth was clearly short of the line, video referees Ashley Klein and Henry Perenara had several looks at the incident before flashing up the green lights.
With the scoreboard showing 30-12 and Canterbury appearing to be in control of the match the Sea Eagles surged back into the contest when Daly Cherry-Evans finished off a 65-metre try, with Foran again the architect. As Sam Perrett dropped back on the last tackle, Foran ran the ball on the last. Winger Jorge Taufua took on Tony Williams who was coming across in cover before he passed back on the inside to Steve Matai. Cherry-Evans then won the race to the corner.
A further two tries in four minutes in the 74th and 78th minutes set up a grandstand finish as the Sea Eagles appeared to be finishing over the top of the Bulldogs who were being starved of possession.
With the clock winding down, Josh Reynolds raced out of marker to put pressure on Foran on the last tackle but his efforts were in vain as the ball deflected off the Bulldog's hands and into the path of Matai who scored to send the home crowd into raptures. Lyon's conversion from the sideline lifted the roof off the Jane Try Stand.
In the 3rd minute of extra time, referee Shayne Hayne ruled Glenn Stewart and Kieran Foran put Reynolds into a dangerous position before moving the mark another 10 metres following Foran's back chat. Trent Hodkinson then stepped up when his 40-metre penalty goal attempt sailed over the black dot.
Next week the Bulldogs host the Roosters on Friday night while Manly have the weekend off.