For 40 minutes it looked like the Bulldogs were going to pull off the upset of the season, but a calamitous error and subsequent penalty try woke the Eels from their slumber as they stormed home to stay in third spot.
The Eels struggled in slippery conditions as Canterbury jumped out to a 10-6 lead at that break, but everything turned in the 45th minute when the blue and whites produced a moment of madness coming out of their own end.
Halfback Jake Averillo fired a pass on the last tackle that cannoned into Dylan Napa, with the big man choosing to watch the ball instead of falling on it.
Mitchell Moses then toed it through and was taken out by a desperate Brandon Wakeham, leaving the Bunker no choice but to award a penalty try.
It sparked a 30-0 run that didn’t do justice to the contest as the Eels flexed their muscles to claim another two points before the week off.
[email protected] are awarded a penalty try and retake the lead!#TelstraPremiership#NRLEelsBulldogspic.twitter.com/1OFQNabfpo
The Mitchell Moses effort to force the penalty try was significant. Once Eel regained lead their whole demeanour changed. More relaxed and controlled. Played really good football. Good win. They need to learn to play this way when they feel uncomfortable. Bulldogs tried hard
Penalty try? I can’t argue with the decision. @MasonsTakepic.twitter.com/7iMl6LhpbU
Half-time entertainment at footy games is often underwhelming and needlessly chaotic, but Sunday’s Bankwest offering was a perfect metaphor for what the Bulldogs have become under Trent Barrett.
Fans were asked to use blocks to build a tower and then try to knock over the other group’s structure. The towers weren’t pretty and the process wasn’t overly exciting, but like the Bulldogs, they stayed intact thanks to the foundations that had been laid.
The Barrett rebuild is far from over but the signs are promising. They will duke it out with the Broncos for the wooden spoon, but they’d be in the top eight for heart and effort after more than matching it with the premiership hopefuls for 40 minutes.
The Bulldogs took an unlikely lead into halftime. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Fair go for Fergo
No one can begrudge Brad Arthur for dropping Blake Ferguson based on his poor defensive reads this season, but if the Eels want to win a premiership, their enigmatic winger needs to be in the side.
He has dropped way down the pecking order, with Haze Dunster and Sean Russell earning starting spots with Maika Sivo out suspended.
Dunster spilt a bomb that led to Dylan Napa’s first try after a 44-game drought, and was caught infield when Wakeham lofted a pass for Tui Katoa to score in the corner, while Russell scored two late tries to cap a dream debut.
Ferguson picked up a lower-leg injury after 50 minutes in reserve grade but recovered to score a 95-metre solo try at the death to show he’s far from a spent force.
He may have already played his final game for the club, but they’ll need his powerful carries coming out of trouble when yards are worth their weight in gold in the finals.
Injuries to insult
Canterbury’s loss could get worse with fears Adam Elliott fractured his cheekbone midway through the second half, while Nick Cotric was also forced off late for an HIA.
Hard-working Englishman Luke Thompson could also be in trouble after he was sent to the sin for a late shot on Dylan Brown, while Parramatta pair Marata Niukore and Nathan Brown were placed on report for high shots.
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