2002: ROUND 6

vs New Zealand Warriors

Match Details
Match Date 20th Apr, 2002
Opponent New Zealand Warriors
Result Win
Coach Steven Folkes
Captain Steve Price
Venue New Zealand (WestpacTrust Stadium)
Crowd 24,251
Referee Bill Harrigan

The Bulldogs have survived a major heart attack and a large case of deja vu to record a nailbiting 28-20 victory over the NZ Warriors in Wellington.

Leading 22-2 with 16 minutes remaining in the 2nd half the Bulldogs looked to be cruising to victory until the ghosts of Wellington 12 months ago came to haunt them once more.

A Warriors avalanche of points had the Bulldogs on the ropes, but the blue and whites managed to hang on and post a late try to deny the Warriors of what would have been an even better comeback than last year.

In the lead up to the grandstand finish the Bulldogs served out their own style of punishment early forcing the Warriors to play a different game to the one they have been allowed to play against weaker opposition in previous weeks. The Bulldogs forwards didn't back down and allowed Brent Sherwin to control play on the fringes - often catching the Warriors short for numbers. The Bulldogs had most of the early chances in attack but forced passes and mistakes were their un-doing on most occasions as the ball was moved rapidly between players. Combined with the greasy surface this led to plenty of mistakes. To the Warriors credit they defended well early and managed to go ahead 2-0 after Darren Smith was penalised for over vigourous footwork at marker.

The Bulldogs finally opened their account in the 29th minute when some quick passing saw some space out wide with Willie Talau crashing across after a 25 metre run to the line. El Masri's conversion was waved away. However, from the next set El Masri would feature prominently when he busted the line and set sail upfield. The Warriors cover defence was able to pull him down 25m away, but several plays later the Bulldogs went wide once again with Anasta breaking the line then popping an inside ball for Feeney to score.

The sides went into the break with the Bulldogs up 10-2.

Ten minutes into the 2nd half the Dogs made the Warriors pay for a costly mistake. Stacey Jones looking for a 40/20 kicked the ball out just by a few inches which gave the Bulldogs the ball 30 metres from the line. A few tackles later Travis Norton was able to keep the ball alive and found Talau who stepped and accelerated through a staggered defensive line to score his 2nd try. El Masri converted to give the 'home' side a 16-2 lead.

With 28 minutes to go the Warriors looked to have scored when a towering bomb was allowed to bounce in goal by the Bulldogs backs with Myles flying through to contentiously ground the football. Replays were unconclusive with a refs call and no try the result. Harrigan ruled a Warriors knock-on but that is definitely not what happened. A minute later the Bulldogs were under the posts through Willie Mason after a break by Brent Sherwin who had a brilliant game. Up 22-2 the Bulldogs were cruising.

...so we thought.

With 16 minutes to go the Warriors made massive yards from a set coming out of their own end - this was the catalyst. Taking the ball into the danger zone big Ali Lauitiiti shrugged off defenders and offloaded to Cleary who burrowed across the line. He looked held up by Patten and the video replays were very inconclusive but the video referee ruled a try. The video referee inconsistency was brought to the forefront again when there was probably more doubt and inconclusive angles in this try than the refs call decision 10 minutes earlier. Nonetheless Cleary converted.

All of a sudden there were gaping holes in the Bulldogs defensive line. The Warriors attack carved through again and several minutes later were over again with Toopi scoring besides the posts following some excellent lead up play. 22-14 behind and the thoughts in everyone's minds were to a year ago.

Once again the Warriors seemed to make all the yards at will and a minute later found themselves attacking again - but a mistake followed after another miracle try loomed ominous.

The next time the Warriors got the ball, it was the same story again. They either made yards, or were able to stand in tackles and offload. Effectively the Bulldogs were having to make 12 tackles a set instead of 6. After trapping El Masri in goal with a kick the Warriors put themselves in position to score again ...and they did. Some slick passing caught the Bulldogs short on the left with Koopu crashing over with six minutes to go. Amongst all the excitement and mayhem match officials seemed to have missed some very flat passes in the lead up. But the score was 22-20 and the Wellington public were once again getting a dose of Rugby League at its best.

Five minutes remained, the Bulldogs could barely lift their legs - it looked like there could only be one winner. But what would have been one of the most famous ever comeback wins was not to be as the Bulldogs finally were able to keep the Warriors inside their own half and force a mistake. Following a scrum ten metres out, Nigel Vagana sliced through against his old club and scored under the posts. He was swarmed by some very excited and relieved team mates.

With the conversion the Bulldogs ran out 28-20 winners. Despite the high mistake rate amongst players and officials it was still a high quality and absorbing Rugby League match which would have satisified both sets of fans.

The Bulldogs have now recorded their fourth win a row and have kept their opposition try-less in the first half of their past three games, but continue to look like deer's in headlights in the final 20 minutes of games. The win keeps them in touch with Newcastle on the ladder and despite the choke in the 2nd half still looked very very good for 60 minutes. The Warriors had no answers until their second wind when they seemed to be able to control all aspects of the game when they believed in themselves. The Warriors will be bitterly disappointed that they couldn't perform over the full 80 minutes after the form they had leading into the game. Their first half performance was very poor but their comeback will once again give them the confidence and belief in themselves that they need to go all the way in 2002.

Source: www.rleague.com

Player Position Tries Goals F Goals Points
Luke Patten Fullback 0 0 0 0
Hazem El Masri Wing 0 4 0 8
Matt Utai Wing 0 0 0 0
Willie Talau Centre 2 0 0 8
Nigel Vagana Centre 1 0 0 4
Braith Anasta Five Eighth 0 0 0 0
Brent Sherwin Half Back 0 0 0 0
Travis Norton Lock 0 0 0 0
Jamie Feeney Second Row 1 0 0 4
Darren Smith Second Row 0 0 0 0
Steve Price Front Row 0 0 0 0
Mark O'Meley Front Row 0 0 0 0
Corey Hughes Hooker 0 0 0 0
Willie Mason Replacement 1 0 0 4
Glen Hughes Replacement 0 0 0 0
Paul Rauhihi Replacement 0 0 0 0
Adam Perry Replacement 0 0 0 0
Total: 5 4 0 28