By Stuart Honeysett (NSWRL)
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have overcome a sin binning to score a gritty 22-18 win over the Newcastle Knights in an Elimination Final at Campbelltown Stadium.
In what turned out to be an absorbing match with no love lost between either side, the Dogs overcame hooker Zac Hetherington being sent to the sin bin for a professional foul late in the second half to register a memorable win.
The moment of ill-discipline looked like being costly when Knights winger Justin Worley scored in the corner in the next set to lock the scores up at 18-all.
However, the Knights were able to further any capitalise on their advantage and things went from bad to worse when the Bulldogs scored through Declan Casey to take a 22-18 lead with only 12 men on the field. It was a lead they wouldn’t surrender until fulltime.
There had been little separating the sixth-placed Bulldogs and seventh placed Knights on the ladder at the end of the regular season and both teams carried that form into their sudden death final.
The Knights were the first to post points after centre Onosai Aunia used his brute strength to drag three defenders over the line before rolling around to plant the ball down for a 4-0 lead.
The Bulldogs put themselves back into contention on the back of a huge charge from Devontai Seumanutafa followed by a penalty after Alex Seve was taken out on a kick chase.
The Dogs elected to run the ball rather than take a shot at goal and the gamble paid off when backrower Justin Filo charged over the line to help put his side back in front 6-4.
The tit-for-tat battle continued when Knights backrower Ben Talty ran a terrific line back inside, stepping and jinking his way past the Dogs defence to score underneath the posts.
The Knights held a 10-6 lead but it wasn’t for long with the Dogs scoring again through centre Frank Kuresa 10 minutes before halftime to take a 12-10 lead into the break.
The Knights retook the lead when play resumed after Aunia grabbed his second try of the game but constantly invited the Dogs back into the game through poor discipline.
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Their poor discipline eventually came back to haunt them when the Dogs took advantage of better field position from a penalty for Sua Ailoilo to crash his way over the line from short range.
Topine landed the conversion to put the Bulldogs up 18-14 but the match swung back in the Knights favour after a Bulldog was sent to the sin bin and Justin Worley in the corner.