The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have survived a second-half scare from fellow cellar-dwelling unit in the Gold Coast Titans, running out 36-26 victors in a match that may have decided the wooden spoon.
From the first whistle, it promised to be an intriguing matchup between two teams struggling for form throughout the year.
The Bulldogs, already relinquished of their Head Coach, have been playing increasingly competent football since the appointment of Mick Potter.
Gold Coast’s Coach, hanging on by a sliver before the game, is surely not long to follow Trent Barrett.
Despite the see-sawing nature of the scoreline, and the admittedly brave comeback attempt from Gold Coast, the Bulldogs never seemed like the game was exceeding their grasp.
It was the Matt Burton and Josh Addo-Carr show. Two players who were predicted to go backwards at Canterbury, have in fact improved leaps and bounds.
Perhaps a product of being more central to the team, the two have nonetheless begun to shine at Belmore.
It was those two who conjured the first points of the game within five minutes.
A simple pass out wide and a Matt Burton fend saw the Canterbury five-eighth streak through a soft Gold Coast defence.
Starting some distance behind, the Fox appeared, as he always does, out of nowhere to seal the try.
Toby Sexton would respond very shortly. Off the back of a penalty, the Titans were in good field position to attack the line.
Worryingly for the Dogs, it did not take long for Aaron Booth to provide his first try assist with a short kick to Toby Sexton.
Unfortunately for the Titans, Canterbury would hit back almost immediately with a Jeremy Marshall-King scurry, an Addo-Carr intercept and a Matt Burton special.
30 minutes into the game and it looked like the Titnas were dead and buried.
A deft kick from Toby Sexton would see Fifita pounce on a ball for a rare try this year, shortening the lead somewhat heading into the break.
The Titans had the best possible result after the opening 30 of taking last points into the sheds.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first, with Addo-Carr streaking away with another intercept to nullify Fifita’s late-half try.
Gold Coast would strike soon after with a high kick to Pat Herbert. Again, the momentum would swing.
With 15 minutes remaining, and leading the Titans by 10 points, Burton would again fend his way to a line break out wide, delivering what looked to be Addo-Carr’s fourth try before the Fox offloaded back to Burton for his second.
Newcomer Sosefo Fifita would score one more try to bring the score back to 10 but the Bulldogs would maintain their lead for the remainder of the match, shooting to 12th on the ladder, while Gold Coast languish equal last with the Wests Tigers.
Titans coach Justin Holbrook says the key for his side is playing the full 80 minutes and not starting out slow.
“We came out of the blocks slow and made a couple of poor decisions on our edges in defence and left ourselves with too much work to do in the second half,” Holbrook said.
“We’ve just got to be better for 80 minutes to give ourselves a chance of winning.”
Although happy with the win, Bulldogs coach Mick Potter knows that poor discipline and errors can eventually cost his side further wins.
“We need to negate our execution, our ability to be able to counter what the other team is doing and our discipline down the other end of the field with errors,” Potter said.
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 36 (Addo-Car 3, Marshall-King, Burton 2) def Gold Coast Titans 26 (Sexton, D. Fifita, Sami, Herbert, S. Fifita)
NRL News Player of the Match
3 Points – Matt Burton (BUL)
2 Points – Josh Addo-Carr (BUL)
1 Point – Paul Vaughan (BUL)