The Wests Tigers and the Canterbury Bulldogs last met back in Round 11, in a match dubbed the ‘Mick Potter Cup’ as the stalwart coach took over the reins from Trent Barrett who stepped down after 18 months of sub-par performances for the Belmore foundation club. The Tigers had taken that match 36 – 22 at Leichhardt Oval.
This time around it was another interim coach, Brett Kimmorley, in only his second match at the joint venture who would have had his heart in his mouth early on as Alex Twal was escorted from the field via medicab after a challenge on Matt Burton went wrong.
Twal was later cleared of serious injury.
Early on, both teams showed that the occasion and pressure of climbing off the bottom of the ladder was getting the better of them, with inside 20m raids resulting in forward passes, knock-ons and kicks into the in-goal on the full.
Yet, it was Bulldogs looking far more expansive with the ball and finding good yardage on the confidence of last week’s win over title contenders, the Parramatta Eels.
Possession was heavily in Canterbury’s favour in the first half, yet there was evidence that they were falling into old habits, consistently finding big men taking settler hit ups inside the oppositions attacking zone.
It was the individual efforts of Jeremy Marshall King in the 15th minute with a determined burrow off a third set in a row, and Jake Averillo in the 27th minute that would take the Bulldogs to 12 points at the break.
David Nofoaluma would score the Tigers’ only try of the first half with an immense show of strength and desperation off a Luke Brooks bomb in the 20th minute after an over-enthusiastic Josh Addo Carr was thinking of a streak-away try instead of marking his winger.
Matt Burton, who was hotly tipped (and later confirmed) to be selected in NSW’s Origin side for Round 2 was wreaking havoc with his spiralling bombs.
This was a far different Bulldogs side to the first half of the competition, conceding their first penalty in the 38th minute of the first half.
Picking up where they left off in the 12th minute of the second half, it was rising star Jacob Kiraz who plucked a Burton bomb out of their air and turned provider to Averillo, after promoting a somewhat questionable offload after his elbow struck the turf.
The try was confirmed by the bunker, and from that point on, the rest of the game was all blue and white.
Kyle Flanagan showed throughout the match that he is very much a confidence player, earning multiple repeat sets and showing vision to find Corey Allan on the sideline off some slick ball movement, who dished it off to Kiraz for yet another meat pie.
It was a bittersweet start to Kurtis Morrin’s first grade career, with the nephew of former Bulldog Brad Morrin scoring on debut off some evasive brilliance from Aaron Schoupp and Josh Addo Carr, before later being escorted from the field with a shoulder injury.
Two relatively sloppy tries would end the game with Aaron Schoupp stealing an intercept off a blind pass from Jackson Hastings, and James Tamou crashing over past some Bulldogs players who had clocked off at the 78th minute.
Bulldogs, back to back for the first time since 2019 with a 36-12 win.
3 points – Aaron Schoupp (CBY) – 286 run metres and one try
2 points – Max King (CBY)- 184 run metres and 28 tackles
1 point – Josh Addo Carr (CBY) – 10 tackle breaks, one try assist and 161 run metres