|Match Date||5th Apr, 2002|
|Venue||Sydney Football Stadium|
Bulldogs centre Nigel Vagana last night said he was "lucky" after equalling a 60-year-old record with five tries in his side's emphatic win over South Sydney.
On August 15, 1942, Edgar Newham bagged five for Canterbury against Balmain. His team won it's second premiership just over a month later.
Kiwi Test three-quarter Vagana equalled the feat and ensured the odds the 2002 Bulldogs grabbing the club's eighth championship shortened just a little more.
The 27-year-old used sheer pace to bag three tries in the first half - the last a magnificent solo effort over 50m - and two in the second as the Dogs put the pin in South Sydney's slowly inflating bubble with a 32-6 triumph.
Asked if he had done something similar before, the painfully modest Vagana answered: "Maybe in under sevens. Not in first grade.
"I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time."
As Vagana lay in the in-goal after his fourth four pointer, in the 51st minute, his modesty deserted him momentarily when he counted his four-pointers on his right hand. He would have done it one by one, but two of his digits were taped together.
The last player to get five in a game was the Sharks' Andrew Ettingshausen, against Souths in 1994.
"Newham is a famous winger in our club," coach Steve Folkes said after the six tries to one victory. "They picked a best-ever Bulldogs side and he was on the wing.
"I didn't scored five tries in a season, let alone one game.
"Obviously, he (Vagana) is a very good player. He's got enough speed to get over 50 metres and he reads the play well."
But while Vagana's flashy showing deservedly dominated conversation as the 22,850 crowd dispersed, the Belmore side's overall display was - at times - breathtaking.
The speed with which they moved the ball and confidence of their handling meant they merely had to wait until the courageous Rabbitohs wilted in the second half.
The Bulldogs led 18-2 at halftime. Pace and a little extra slickness seemed to be the only difference between the sides early.
Vagana's first touchdown came after only four minutes, the 27-year-old deftly pucking a Brent Sherwin grubber kick off the ground and diving over, winger Hazem El Masri converting.
From a scrum win near halfway in the 14th minute, Vagana handed off to rookie centre Ben Harris.
The North Coast youngster cut infield and drew the remaining defence, before finding Vagana backing up on his outside for the converted try.
The ex-Warriors and Warrington threequarter's third touchdown was the most dazzling.
He beat South Sydney's Adam Muir and Jason Death with an in-and-away near the his own 40m line and then accelerated upfield, dispatching fullback Wade McKinnon with a sidestep.
Dogs winger Hazem El Masri at least broke his team-mate's stranglehold on the tryscorers column when Vagana put him over four minutes into the second half after an error from Souths' Adam Peek.
But the 12-Test Kiwi star was at it again in seven minutes later, lock Travis Norton kicking ahead on the right wing and Vagana beating three Rabbits to regather and score.
Another six minutes passed before Vagana finished off a sweeping backline movement and arrogantly tip-toed along the dead-ball line for 10 metes - a touch judge keeping a close eye on him - to give El Masri an easier kick at goal.
For the final 23 minutes, it appeared the new leader of the NRL tryscoring chart was going to need more than one hand to count his haul.
In the end, Souths held the Bulldogs out and their centre, Andrew King, got a consolation try with two minutes remaining.
Bulldogs second rower Steve Reardon was reported for a high tackle in the final five minutes.
Before kickoff, both sides engaged in some subterfuge. Bulldogs skipper Steve Price (wrist) and winger Gavin Lester (knee) were ruled out and Rabbitohs coach Craig Coleman benched attacking strike weapon Owen Craigie in a late reshuffle.
Craigie was the Rabbitohs most dangerous player in a game team performance which showed little evidence of the spark necessary to match it with the NRL's leading sides.
Coleman said: "We played a very good team. We've played them and the Roosters and we've got two wins from four games. The top sides play a bit quicker than the sides we've beaten.
"It was like a carbon copy of the Roosters game - we couldn't get out of our own quarter. I don't want to comment about why .... because I'm not a wealthy man.
"I was concerned about the ruck and the play-the-ball."
|Hazem El Masri||Wing||1||4||0||12|
|Braith Anasta||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Brent Sherwin||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Reardon||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Darren Smith||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Willie Mason||Front Row||0||0||0||0|
|Mark O'Meley||Front Row||0||0||0||0|