A quality game of football was expected and that was exactly what the doctor ordered, as the Canterbury Bulldogs and St George Illawarra Dragons put on a show in a scintillating game.
It was ultimately the Bulldogs who gained the upper hand and won the game 29-16 over the ladder-leading Dragons, with 27,291 fans leaving the game having witnessed an entertaining contest.
With some concerns over just who would start in the halves, it was Moses Mbye who ended up as five-eighth and with Reynolds shifted to the bench, it made for an interesting game.
But Mbye took his chance well and led the Dogs side around the park and it was his field goal that put the game beyond doubt.
Not one to be underdone, Reynolds’ cameo was just as special as he showed off his array of skills when he was on the field.
The game pitted two fierce rivals together and two powerful forward packs but ultimately, it was the Dogs who got the roll-on as the likes of Greg Eastwood and Sam Kasiano asserted their dominance.
Their go-forward and drive proved too much for the Dragons as they overpowered the Dragons pack and made it seem all too easy.
With the scores tied at 16-all after the Dogs resurgence to get back into the contest, Mbye and Kasiano in particular led the way, as the Dogs put the pedal to the metal and came away with the win.
There was a dampener on the win though, as captain James Graham left the field with a hamstring injury.
The pendulum in the game swung very often, with the Dogs enjoying the early running and possession before the Dragons gained the rub of the green. Only for the Dogs to again pick up the momentum that ultimately won them the game.
Although Mbye performed brilliantly, Dogs coach Des Hasler admits even he is uncertain about what the halves combination will be each week.
“It won’t be the way we’ll go all the time but [it depends on] who we’ll play,” Hasler said.
“I thought he [Mbye] played pretty well in parts, obviously his ability taking the line on and he’s only a young kid. He kicked a great goal under pressure.”
The back and forth nature of the game was not something that was lost on Dragons coach Paul McGregor.
“I thought the game swung a few times, definitely,” Dragons coach Paul McGregor said after his side’s loss.
“As Canterbury do, they come out of the blocks pretty hard and jumped to a nice early lead. We worked ourselves back into a 10-6 score at half-time and that second half we started really well, put a couple of tries on and went to 16-10.
“I thought at that stage we looked within ourselves and we could go again but to Canterbury’s credit they’re a very good side. They just found another gear and put us to bed,” McGregor said.
The impact of Reynolds off the bench was not unnoticed as prop Aiden Tolman praised the live-wire utility for his efforts and passion.
“I think it was sort of that arm wrestle when he came on and he came up with a couple of big plays,” Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman said.
“He pushed Dugan back and he forced the ball (out) on Nabuli as well.
“Josh is one of those types of players who knows he’s got plenty of energy. [He] comes on and always tries his best. Sometimes it doesn’t work out but you’ve got to love him for his attitude and the way he turns up every week,” Tolman said.
Where the Dragons failed according to McGregor was their goal-line defence.
“We’ve been very, very good at defending our try line for multiple sets of six and today we weren’t. I think that’s where it was lost,” McGregor said.
“We’ve had that real resolve on our goal line and we didn’t do that every time. There were a couple of times that they got down there and they scored I know they scored wide in the corner but they still scored points.”
Player of the Game:
3. Sam Kasiano
2. Curtis Rona
1. Gareth Widdop
Canterbury Bulldogs 29 (Curtis Rona, Josh Morris, Tim Lafai, Tim Browne, Sam Kasiano tries; Moses Mbye 2, Trent Hodkinson 2 goals; Moses Mbye field goal) defeated St George Illawarra Dragons 16 (Gareth Widdop 2, Peter Mata’utia tries; Gareth Widdop 2 goals) at ANZ Stadium. Half-time: 10-6 Bulldogs. Crowd: 27,291.