|Match Date||2nd May, 2003|
|Opponent||New Zealand Warriors|
|Venue||New Zealand (WestpacTrust Stadium)|
Bulldogs players declared after ending a three-week losing run last night that they had turned their season around and scotched theories of internal strife over contract negotiations.
Having dominated the Warriors for the first half to lead only 6-0, Steve Folkes's side found itself 12-6 down with 10 minutes left at WestpacTrust Stadium.
Another loss would have given the Belmore team their worst run since losing five consecutive games in 2000 and - more significantly - intensified concern and scrutiny over the possible loss of half a dozen off-contract stars at the end of this season. But young centre Ben Harris put winger Matt Utai over in the 71st minute to narrow the margin to two points and then a Travis Norton break put the Dogs close enough for halfback Brent Sherwin to send prop Willie Mason over for the clincher a minute later.
"It's good to tough it out and get the monkey off our backs," five-eighth Braith Anasta said. "I'm sure we can go on from here and turn around the season. It's just the relief. The pressure was building on us.
"With all the circumstance going on, we knew we'd get hammered a bit. So it was good to get away with a win and show everyone that there's no worries at Canterbury, we're still playing good footy and everyone is a good team unit."
Chief executive Steve Mortimer admitted the win would help his chances of retaining six high-profile players, with centre Nigel Vagana set to make a decision on his future on Monday.
"I think everyone was just sick of losing, mate," match-winner Mason said. "Some of these blokes haven't lost three games [successively] in their whole football career. It's not a place you usually lose but the games we lost, they were in the balance and we just played crap."
The Bulldogs might have been forgiven for straying from their game plan when Sherwin grubber-kicks reaped just one point for every Warriors line dropout in the first half - six. And matters became grimmer when the hosts scored a minute after the resumption through Francis Meli, then went further ahead thanks to centre Clinton Toopi 17 minutes later. Still, the Dogs stuck to their controlled plan and it eventually paid off.
"We're a club that's not used to losing and the guys don't like losing," Folkes said. "Neither do I. I guess you start to doubt things, doubt the way you're playing and your confidence certainly does suffer. Tonight was a really good result for a lot of hard work."
Injury forced the Warriors to blood two newcomers last night: All Black Mark Robinson, who played well as hooker, and teenager Thomas Leuluai, who showed promising flashes off the bench in the closing stages.
Coach Daniel Anderson said his team's showing was better than last Sunday's loss to Penrith. "We had a dig," he said. "When we got to the lead, I thought we'd done enough and some of our options were very amateur when we needed to play some solid football."
|Hazem El Masri||Fullback||0||3||0||6|
|Braith Anasta||Five Eighth||0||0||0||0|
|Brent Sherwin||Half Back||0||0||0||0|
|Steve Reardon||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Glen Hughes||Second Row||0||0||0||0|
|Willie Mason||Front Row||1||0||0||4|
|Steve Price||Front Row||0||0||0||0|