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Shannon Meyer reviews the Bulldogs8 upset win over South Sydney that sees them climb from the bottom of the NRL ladder.

MATCH TIMELINE

Minute Scoring Play Score
8th Penalty Goal Jake Averillo (Canterbury-Bankstown) Canterbury-Bankstown 2-0
13th Try Tim Lafai (Canterbury-Bankstown) Canterbury-Bankstown 6-0
14th Goal Jake Averillo (Canterbury-Bankstown) Canterbury-Bankstown 8-0
21st Sin Bin Jaydn Su’A (Rabbitohs) Canterbury-Bankstown 8-0
23rd Try Reimis Smith (Canterbury-Bankstown) Canterbury-Bankstown 12-0
24th Goal Jake Averillo (Canterbury-Bankstown) Canterbury-Bankstown 14-0
25th Try Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Canterbury-Bankstown) Canterbury-Bankstown 18-0
27th Goal Jake Averillo (Canterbury-Bankstown) Canterbury-Bankstown 20-0
32nd Try Jaxson Paulo (South Sydney) Canterbury-Bankstown 20-4
38th Try Campbell Graham (South Sydney) Canterbury-Bankstown 20-8
39th Goal Adam Reynolds (South Sydney) Canterbury-Bankstown 20-10
48th Try Alex Johnston (South Sydney) Canterbury-Bankstown 20-14
50th Goal Adam Reynolds (Rabbitohs) Canterbury-Bankstown 20-16
65th Try Chris Smith (Canterbury-Bankstown) Canterbury-Bankstown 24-16
66th Goal Brandon Wakeham (Canterbury-Bankstown) Canterbury-Bankstown 26-16

MATCH SUMMARY

1st Half

Both sides started the game brightly, with some powerful runs and defense to match, and the Bulldogs were hardly looking like a last-placed team in the opening minutes of the game.

Fresh from the first set restart of the game, the Bulldogs had their first decent attack of the game, and Jayden Okunbor went close. The set ended with a Bulldogs penalty after a Rabbitohs player was penalised for an escort, just after the Rabbitohs dropped the cross-field bomb. Jake Averillo made no mistake and Canterbury were leading 2-0.

Not long after the 100% completion rate from both sides was mentioned in the coverage after 10 minutes, Souths centre Campbell Graham lost the ball in a hit up 20 metres from his own line. Not long after that the Bulldogs were further in front.

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After the Bulldogs earned a repeat set straight after the error, Canterbury scored the set after through Tim Lafai. A perfectly weighted kick from Lachlan Lewis found Okunbor on the left wing who batted (or conveniently dropped the ball) backwards to a waiting Lafai, who muscled his way down and through the Rabbitohs‘ defense to score.

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A controversial moment in the 22nd minute, as a big tackle from Souths’ Jaydn Su’A on Lachlan Lewis, which was originally celebrated by the Rabbitohs players, ended in Su’A spending 10 minutes in the sin bin. Lewis looked quite wobbly when he got up from the hit, which was then looked at by the Bunker, who made the penalty/sin bin ruling.

Canterbury took advantage not long after as a rampaging Reimis Smith was too much for Cody Walker and Steven Marsters to handle as the Bulldogs centre took the first pass from the scrum 10 metres out. The scrum came after a failed intercept attempt in the Bulldogs’ first set after the sin bin. Averillo once again made no mistake to make the score 14-0.

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They doubled down the very next set while the Rabbitohs remained a man down. After some enterprising rugby league from the kick off saw them shift the ball wide on the first run, Canterbury were right on Souths’ line for the fifth tackle. Another fine cross-field kick, from Averillo this time, found Okunbor who passed it back for a waiting Raymond Faitala-Mariner who didn’t need to go far to score. The successful conversion made it a scarcely believable 20-0 to Canterbury.

Souths’ luck began to turn not long after, as a rare Bulldogs error led to a set restart, then a penalty, and then Su’A returned to the field. Within a minute they had scored for the first time. A right-hand side move featuring Adam Reynolds, Corey Allen, and a super tap on from Cody Walker found Jaxson Paulo who crossed in the corner. His foot also crossed the line before he put the ball down to score the try, but unbelievably in the uber-monitored modern game the try wasn’t sent upstairs for a look. It would no doubt have been ruled no try.

Some Alex Johnston magic not long after nearly ended in a try soon after, but was ruled out by the Bunker: Johnston showed the speed and skill that Souths can enjoy in the future with his re-signing.

Just before half time the Rabbitohs narrowed the gap to 10 points after another attacking raid down the right side. Reynolds was involved again, but the star of the play was fullback Allen, who picked a bootlace pass at pace and found eventual try scorer Campbell Graham, who continued his fine run of try scoring. The successful conversion had Souths behind just 20-10, a much more flattering scoreline than being 20-0 down to the last-placed team after half-an-hour.

2nd Half

South Sydney started the second half much better, and went close with Walker and Graham within the first five minutes of the break

It wasn’t much longer after that Souths had reduced the gap even further, turning field position and possession into points. Not for the first time this season the left-side move went Cook-Reynolds-Walker, with the latter’s final cut out pass superb, and finding the ever reliable try scorer Johnston to score in the corner. Reynolds converted the try from that same corner. It was now 20-16 and the Bulldogs’ good early work was unraveling. Again.

Canterbury hadn’t done a great deal in attack for much of the second half, but exploded into life just before the 60th minute when a flying Okunbor went close to scoring, but was denied by a great Allen last man tackle.

The Bulldogs were slowly getting back on top of the game in the last 20 minutes, with their pressure forcing errors out of Souths. Their attack earned repeat sets and forced Souths into some good scrambling defense.

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That pressure eventually led to points for the Bulldogs with Chris Smith scoring his first ever NRL try, after a pinpoint Brandon Wakeham cross-field kick hit Johnston’s shoulder, and Smith scrambled best and got the ball down just before going dead. The successful conversion gave the Bulldogs a 26-16 lead with 13 minutes to go, and all the momentum.

Souths’ Jed Cartwright was poised to score his first try not long after but was cruelly denied by Will Hopoate, who knocked the ball out of his hands with the line open. Josh Jackson also stopped a Souths try not long after with a fine last-ditch tackle on Cameron Murray, although the Bulldogs’ forward was lucky not to get a 10 minute rest for a repeated holding down penalty.

The last minutes fizzled out a little, as the Bulldogs confidently saw out the game like a side who had done it more than three times this season: a win they deserved on the whole. For South Sydney, this wasn’t a great performance, and with their record against most of the top eight and their recent winning run coming to an end, they look like finals fodder.

GAME HIGHLIGHT

Canterbury don’t really look like a side that have been last for most of the season, and they certainly didn’t for the first 30 minutes of tonight’s game. They have had a few good chances to climb off the bottom this season with winnable games and winnable positions, but have fallen short. Sadly, the large group of people who despise the Broncos would say this too. They were a joy to watch in the first half, with some good rugby league, and they didn’t capitulate in the second half as Souths got on top. Eventually, they began to force Souths into mistakes and kicked on to secure a long-awaited win. Their completion rate was above 90%, and they maintained that even when not on top; their cover defense and last-ditch tackles showed true spirit, and they ultimately thoroughly deserved the win.

The controversial moments of the first half will no doubt be discussed after the game: while the Jaydn Su’A sin bin looked a little harsh, the Jaxson Paulo try was a decision that shouldn’t have been given. But in reality not many really noticed in real time, and it was only discovered with the many replays. Sure, the decision would have been correct to disallow, but then there’s also the other argument of letting referees make more decisions on-field. But that can’t happen if everything is replayed and analysed to a laboratory level.

Some of the better players on the field for the night were the lesser known names of Jake Averillo for the Bulldogs, with Jayden Okunbor looked dangerous on many occasions too. Jaydn Su’A had a big game and looked fired up even more after his sin binning, and Jed Cartwright had a very good night on a rare NRL appearance after replacing Steven Marsters.

The biggest highlight for Souths fans came after the game with the hint of a Sam Burgess comeback. Well, if it’s good enough for SBW after so long out of the game, then why not big Sam?

SQUADS

South Sydney Rabbitohs1. Corey Allan 2. Alex Johnston 3. Campbell Graham 4. Steven Marsters 5. Jaxson Paulo 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Liam Knight 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. Jaydn Su’A 12. Bayley Sironen 13. Cameron Murray. Interchange: 14. Mark Nicholls 15. Jed Cartwright 16. Hame Sele 17. Keaon Koloamatangi.

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs1. Will Hopoate 2. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 3. Reimis Smith 4. Tim Lafai 5. Jayden Okunbor 6. Jake Averillo 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Luke Thompson 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Chris Smith. Interchange: 14. Brandon Wakeham 15. Renouf To’omaga 16. Sione Katoa 17. Sauaso Sue.

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