A solid first-half effort from the Bulldogs set up an upset 27-8 win over second-placed Manly and ended the Sea Eagles’ 10-game Fortress Brookvale streak on Friday night.
The under siege Bulldogs leapt out of the blocks to a 20-8 lead at the break, scoring a converted try and a field goal in the second half to put an end to Manly’s long running dominance at Brookvale, where they had not lost a match since round 16 last year.
“We’re now four points out of the eight and we all knew if we lost again we were going to drop way out so we knew coming here [we needed a] big effort [to] get a win,” he said.
Recalled Centre Willie Tonga said the team has had to change its tactics to be more competitive.
“In the first couple of NRL rounds with our highly forward pack we used to go into every game thinking we were going to out-muscle them but that wasn’t the case so we had to change things,” he said.
The Bulldogs’ 1/2 time advantage remained in tact throughout a dead-locked second stanza in which no points were scored until forward Nick Kouparitsas crossed in the 70th minute to put the finishing touches on a sweeping move that ran almost the length of the field.
Bulldogs captain Andrew Ryan set the ball in motion when he passed off to Sonny Bill Williams who managed to find former Queensland centre Tonga in space on the left-hand edge with an off-load.
Willie Tonga then spiraled a pin-point overhead pass to once again pick up Ryan on the inside, who shaped to pass left before finding Kouparitsas inside to his right, leaving the interchange player with little to do but put his head down and storm to the line.
El Masri converted the try to add to his first-half tally of three conversions and a penalty goal.
Kiwi five-eighth Ben Roberts, who recently signed a two-year contract extension with the Belmore-based franchise, then had the final say with a deft field goal four minutes from time, calmly slotting home under little pressure.
Earlier in the match, in-form Manly back rower Anthony Watmough, who this week extended his stay with the club until 2010, opened the scoring in the fifth minute, with Jamie Lyon converting successfully for an early lead.
Willie Tonga collected a first-half brace for the Bulldogs while Corey Hughes also touched down for a four-pointer.
El Masri extended the lead marginally with a penalty shot on the stroke of half-time to add to his three successful conversion attempts, while Manly could only manage a penalty shot through Lyon in response.
Bulldogs 27 (W Tonga 2, C Hughes, N Kouparitsas tries; H El Masri 3 conversions, penalty goal; B Roberts field goal)
Manly 8 (A Watmough try; J Lyon conversion, penalty goal)
The Warriors continued their stunning return to form with a massive 40-point demolition of a hapless Penrith Panthers outfit in their round 15 NRL clash at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland last night.
Two tries apiece from 5/8 Michael Witt and fullback Wade McKinnon gave the New Zealand-based side the foundations to race to a 54-14 victory to hand the club back to back wins for the first time since round 7 this year.
Michael Witt opened the scoring account in just the second minute and scoring a second in the 18th minute, then slotting three conversions to bag 14 first-half points as the Warriors raced to a 36-10 lead at the break.
Wade McKinnon also crossed for a double haul of four-pointers either side of the interval, with George Gatis, Wairangi Koopu, Epalahame Lauaki all scoring first-half tries, Manu Vatuvei and Louis Anderson joining the scorers during the second period.
Michael Witt then added a further three conversions to finish with six from six, while usual kicker Tony Martin also made three from as many attempts early in the match.
The Warriors scored an amazing six tries to two in the first half, with Luke Lewis and Nick Youngquest the only players to cross for the visitors during a forgettable opening period.
Keith Peters got himself on the scoreboard for Penrith in a woeful second-half display, the Panthers suffering their worst of 10 losses in NRL 2007 to remain in 15th place with a chance of dropping to the very bottom of the ladder should the Dragons win in their match against the league-leaders Melbourne Storm on Sunday afternoon.
The victory gives the Warriors their sixth win of the year and their second on the trot after a 12-2 victory over Cronulla last week to snap a six-match losing streak.
Ivan Cleary’s team has an opportunity to rise as high as ninth on the ladder should other NRL results go their way over the course of the weekend.
Warriors 54 (M Witt 2, W McKinnon 2, G Gatis, W Koopu, E Lauaki, M Vatuvei, L Anderson tries; M Witt 6 conversions, T Martin 3 conversions)
Penrith 14 (L Lewis, N Youngquest, K Peters tries; M Gordon conversion)