|Match Date||7th Apr, 2001|
|Opponent||New Zealand Warriors|
|Venue||New Zealand (WestpacTrust Stadium)|
Stacey Jones may have missed the conversion to see the Bulldogs and Warriors have a 24-all but his performance was breath taking against a woeful Bulldogs side at Wellington.
A bumper crowd of 27,724 turned up to see a great game of footy where the Warriors new never say die attitude was out in force while the Bulldogs surrended the match.
New Zealand to put it simple deserved to win the game despite being down 24-8 with only six minutes to go. The performances of Jones, Ali Lauitiiti, Justin Morgan, Henry Faafili, Frances Meli and Clinton Toopi were totally outstanding.
The Bulldogs scored five tries to four and it was the poor goal kicking of Hazem El-Masri in the end that cost them but they didn't deserve to be up 24-8. They had plenty of luck and scored two tries that were a matter of centimetres in them.
The Bulldogs scored two early tries through Luke Patten and Steve Reardon to lead 8-nil. Patten crossed over from a great pass by Braith Anasta while Reardon crashed over close to the line from a Nigel Vagana off load.
New Zealand hit back with a penalty goal to Jones to bring the score back to 8-2 Bulldogs way. Patten then scored a somewhat lucky try when a Jones chip and chase bounced perfectly for Patten who raced 85m to score. If the ball bounced any other way it would have been a try to the Warriors. El-Masri convered the try to give the Bulldogs a 14-2 lead. The Bulldogs should have extended the lead at halftime but El-Masri missed a penalty shot at goal from 30m out in front of the posts.
The Warriors should have scored twice immediately after halftime but mucked them both up. To rub salt into the wounds, the Bulldogs scored first in the second half when Glen Hughes dived over to score on the blindside. If he was held up, it would have been crucifying as Vagana and El-Masri were unmarked.
Justin Murphy grabbed the Warriors first and well deserved try when Lauitiiti put Meli into the clear. Numbers outwide saw Murphy cross over outwide. It appeared it was Jones and not El-Masri took the kicking lessons from Daryl Halligan and landed a great sideline goal. The Warriors trailed 20-8.
Just when the Warriors looked set to storm home initially, El-Masri scored an opportunistic try to put the Bulldogs up 24-8 with El-Masri yet again missing another goal.
The final minutes was all the Warriors as the Bulldogs put up the white flag with three miracle tries. The first of them was to Faafili from a Nathan Wood chip & chase with the Bulldogs hanging back and not contesting the ball. Jones kicked a bottler from the touchline to bring the score back to 24-14 with four minutes to go.
Jones chanced his arm with a kick across field inside his own half where it was swooped upon with Meli scoring under the posts.
Then from the kick off Morgan went through a gaping hole (can't say defence) where he setup Toopi to score an outstanding try to level the scores. Unfortunately for the Warriors Jones couldn't kick the goal to give them a well deserved victory.
The move to Wellington was a mix success for the Bulldogs. The crowd and the close game gave Rugby League a huge boost in New Zealand with 27,724 people showing up. But the Bulldogs didn't get the much needed victory.
Bulldogs coach Steve Folkes was one of the best defenders during his playing days in the 1980's and played in the most fearsome pack of forwards during that period. But he hasn't been able to get the defensive bite into the Bulldogs team for the last two seasons.
The Bulldogs performance and defence was a far cry from the great days when Peter Tunks, Peter Kelly, Paul Dunn, David Gillespie, Paul Langmack, Mark Bugden, Brian Battese, Steve Folkes and Billy Johnstone would maul and smash opponents into submission. The latter two are on the coaching staff and that's not mentioning centres Chris Mortimer and Andrew Farrar who had equal aggression and toughness to the forwards. It seems the Bulldogs best ever era seems such an age ago.
Many of the Bulldogs critics said they were another Wests Tigers 2000 version where they jumped out of the blocks but later fell to pieces. On the evidence of the final stages tonight, the critics appear to be 100%. It's going to take a big turn around for the Bulldogs to bounce back this week and for the rest of the season. The wheels have fallen off. They need to put them back on soon or the Bulldogs will lose touch with the leaders.
Daniel Anderson deserves to be coach of the year already. The Warriors showed remarkable fight and competitiveness and that stunned the Bulldogs.
Well done to the Warriors. Shame Jones missed the goal since his performance was very exceptional but the comeback will win the Warriors much respect amongst even their harshest critics.
Maybe one lesson the New Zealand Warriors can learn from this match is they need to get themselves around the country more and play home games in places like Wellington. The locals warmed to them and a performance like that will get the fans streaming back for even more.
Some new superstars were unearthed tonight with the future of Rugby League in New Zealand looking very bright. Names such as Lauitiiti, Faafili, Meli, Toopi and Betham will be household names in the years to come along side the likes of Jones and Kiwis from other clubs such as the Paul brothers, Craig Smith, Nathan Cayless, Tonie Carroll and Stephen Kearney.
The performance of referee Steven Clark was excellent, a rarity for Clark these days. He only blew six penalties in the match, which would have been a culture shock for the rugby union mad New Zealand capital seeing so few penalties.
|Hazem El Masri||Wing||1||2||0||8|
|Braith Anasta||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Craig Polla-Mounter||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Reardon||Second Row||1||0||0||4|
|Darren Smith||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Price||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Darren Britt||Front Row||0||0||0||0|