|Match Date||24th Aug, 2001|
|Venue||Sydney Showground Homebush|
Canterbury has wrapped up second position in the minor premiership with a hard fought 16-14 comeback victory against Cronulla in a match where the Bulldogs never looked like winning until Willie Talau scored an amazing try in the 67th minute.
The result in the end came down a matter of millimetres and elbows. The Sharks were leading 14-8 when Hazem El Masri was tackled on the last after catching a Brent Sherwin bomb but threw it back to Luke Patten who managed to pick up the ball within a blade of grass from the sideline. Replays showed that the ball was in by less than a whisker. Patten passed the ball to Darren Smith who seemed to be trapped but managed to offload back to Patten with the ball going out to Glen Hughes who kicked as he was falling with Braith Anasta passing out to Talau to score the try of the season. El Masri's successful conversion leveled up the scores.
However the most dramatic moment of the night came in the 71st minute when the Sharks took a regulation 20m tap after Craig Polla-Mounter missed a drop-goal attempt. Stevens hit the ball up but knocked out Polla-Mounter cold with what replays showed was a very clear elbow. Stevens was put on report by referee Paul Simpkins after touch judge Steve Chiddy reported the incident on the advice of the video referee. El Masri landed an easy penalty goal from 25m out to put the Bulldogs up 16-14.
The Bulldogs controlled the final eight minutes of the match and did bomb two golden chances to wrap up the match including one when Sherwin plucked out a Nick Graham chip kick but slipped over with no one in front of him. El Masri chewed up most of the final four minutes with a penalty goal attempt that hit the posts to bounce back in the field of play.
Cronulla started the match in a blaze of glory scoring in the 3rd minute even before the Bulldogs had a touch of the football. Adam Dykes caught the Bulldogs defence unawares when he ran and passed on the inside to David Peachey who found a big hole up the middle to score next to the posts.
Mat Rogers scored in the 11th minute when Cronulla got the ball in great field position from a Nigel Vagana error 10m out from his own line. Vagana compounded his error missed Rogers in a one-on-one tackle when the Sharks flyer showed him the sideline. Rogers converted both the tries with the Sharks leading 12-0.
The Bulldogs lifted after the two early tries with departing veterans Polla-Mounter and captain Darren Britt leading the way. Britt performed the hit of the match crunching Martin Lang and it was a Polla-Mounter break soon after that got the Bulldogs rolling. It was a great offload by Britt and good work by Price that saw Polla-Mounter dart over for a determined try in the 20th minute.
On the stroke of halftime Mat Rogers landed a penalty goal but the Bulldogs struck back after the break with El Masri getting the home side back within a converted try.
Canterbury's defence was sensational holding out the Sharks attacking raids during the second half but couldn't hold the ball until the stroke of luck in the 67th minute for Talau to score where the match really started to become drama charged with a freakish try and the Stevens incident.
Despite the loss, the Sharks only need to defeat Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval next week to secure 4th position and a home semi-final, that will most likely be against Brisbane unless something dramatic happens to both the Broncos and Knights.
The Bulldogs secure second position and a home semi-final on Saturday September 8 with kickoff at 7.30pm. It wasn't the Bulldogs best performance of the season but it was one where they defended for their lives and finally had a stroke of luck, which they capitalised on.
It was an emotional night with Britt, Polla Mounter and first division fullback Rod Silva saying their goodbyes after great careers with the Bulldogs. Britt and Polla-Mounter played leading roles in helping the Bulldogs secure a top two position and give coach Steve Folkes the luxury of resting key players against arch-rivals St George next Friday night.
The best player on the field did come from the Bulldogs frontrow but it wasn't Britt or Polla-Mounter. Steven Price yet again stood up to be counted under pressure and was sensational to continue his great run of recent impressive form. Price started the season very slowly but is hitting his straps heading into the finals and making a late charge for Kangaroo Tour selection.
|Hazem El Masri||Wing||0||4||0||8|
|Braith Anasta||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Darrell Trindall||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Willie Mason||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Reardon||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Price||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Darren Britt||Front Row||0||0||0||0|